The origins of Oktoberfest

London has never been one to turn down a party and once again the city is raising its tankards to celebrate Oktoberfest, but just how did this German-rooted celebration come about?

It’s origins 

Who would’ve thought that a marriage and horse racing would have sown the seeds for this festival? In 1810, King Louis I of Bavaria married Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen (yeah we had a hard time pronouncing that as well!) and the new royal family invited the citizens of its state capital Munich to attend the wedding celebration. It proved to be so popular, that it turned into an annual celebration for the people and when it came for the 1818 iteration of the festival, the first carousel and two swings were set up as the choice of amusement parks was very sparse and small beer stands were set up for visitors to quench their thirst. The number of beer stands grew rapidly and by 1896, the humble beer stands were replaced with towering tents capable of holding thousands of drinkers and were backed by breweries. The remainder of the festival site was taken up by a fun-fair. The range of carousels offered was already increasing rapidly in the 1870’s as the fairground trade continued to grow and develop in Germany.


One of the attractions at the 1951 event.


At the start of the 20th Century, the festival was cancelled for the duration of both world wars and from 1950 the celebration has always been opened in the traditional fashion – A twelve-gun salute along with the Mayor of Munich tapping the first keg of beer at 12pm. The Mayor then proceeds to give the first litre of beer to the Leader of the state of Bavaria.


From there, the festival became an international highlight of the calender year, with many foreigners flocking to Bavaria to take part in the wild festivities and subsequently growing reputation and exuberance. For example, in the 1970’s the German gay community organised “Gay Days” at the start of the celebrations. Today, the festival caters to a myriad of different people, such as ‘quiet Oktoberfest’ which was introduced in 2005. The orchestras in the tents only play brass music before the 6pm curfew, when it’s replaced with Schlage pop and electric music and the celebration really lets its hair down.


“My my haven’t you grown!”: Oktoberfest attracts millions of visitors every year. Safe to say its original purpose has stayed true.


The 2010 iteration of the event marked the 200th anniversary of Oktoberfest and to mark the occasion, a historische Wiesn (historical Oktoberfest) was announced and started one day before the contemporary celebration. The historical event contained a horse race in traditional costumes and a museum-style tent that gave its visitors insight into what took place during the festivals royal origins.

To put into perspective just how far the festival has come, nearly three Olympic-sized swimming pools worth of beer was served during the 2015 celebration. We hope you’re just as excited to join in the festivities as we are! So let’s raise our glass to the ceiling and shout “Zum Wohl!”

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