This is a guest post by Hanz Greiber.
Oktoberfest, the world’s largest beer festival, is held annually in Munich, Germany. The 16-day party attracts over 6 million people every year who consume 1.5 million gallons of beer, 200,000 pairs of pork sausages, and 480,000 spit-roasted chickens during the two-week extravaganza. While the event reinforces stereotypical images of beer-loving, meat-loving Germans dressed in dirndls and lederhosen, visitors to the annual event come from all over the world. Oktoberfest is in fact one of Munich’s largest and most profitable tourist attractions–it brings over 450 million euros to the city’s coffers each year. The folk festival has given its name to similar festivals worldwide, which are at least in part modeled after the original Bavarian Oktoberfest. The largest Oktoberfest held outside of Germany takes place each year in the twin cities of Kitchener-Waterloo in Canada, where a large ethnic German population resides.
Oktoberfest may just seem like an excuse to get drunk and pull out your ‘laiderhousen’ but it is more than that to real German people. It is a celebration of life and fertility. It was originally a harvest festival to celebrate all the fruits of our labor throughout the summer. The crop has arrived, the animals are being put to slaughter soon before Winter and we will be able to live another year. What a wonderful occasion to have a few pints with your friends and frolick with a milk maid.
Over 200 years of tradition
The Oktoberfest tradition started in 1810 to celebrate the October 12th marriage of Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig to the Saxon-Hildburghausen Princess Therese. The citizens of Munich were invited to join in the festivities which were held over five days on the fields in front of the city gates. The main event of the original Oktoberfest was a horse race until the early 1900’s, up until WW1 killed most of the horses in Germany.
Since WW1, Oktoberfest took a different turn in Germany. It was less about the harvest and more about celebrating life and being proud of being German.
Is it okay to celebrate Oktoberfest when you are not German? Of course! But take care and know you are celebrating something with hundreds of years of tradition in it. Don’t just “get pissed” as the British say and make a fool of yourself.