Oktoberfest ! Yes, that’s the name. Oktoberfest is the World’s Largest Fair held annually in Munich, Bavaria, Germany. It is a 16-day festival running from late September to the first weekend in October with more than 6 million people from around the world attending the event every year. To the locals, it is not called Oktoberfest, but “die Wies’n”, after the colloquial name of the fairgrounds (Theresienwiese) themselves. The Oktoberfest is an important part of Bavarian culture, having been held since 1810. Other cities across the world also hold Oktoberfest celebrations, modeled after the original Munich event.
Oktoberfest, has become synonymous to gulping down large amounts of beer.Only beer conforming to the Reinheitsgebot, at a minimum of 13.5% Stammwürze (approximately 6% alcohol by volume) may be served at Oktoberfest. The beer must also be brewed within the city limits of Munich. Beers meeting these criteria may be designated Oktoberfest Beer.
Crown Prince Ludwig, later to become King Ludwig I, was married to Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen on October 12, 1810. The citizens of Munich were invited to attend the festivities held on the fields in front of the city gates to celebrate the happy royal event. The fields were named Theresienwiese (“Theresa’s meadow”) in honor of the Crown Princess, and have kept that name ever since, although the locals have since abbreviated the name simply to the “Wies’n”.
Horse races in the presence of the Royal Family marked the close of the event that was celebrated as a festival for the whole of Bavaria. The decision to repeat the horse races in the subsequent year gave rise to the tradition of the Oktoberfest.
The festival was eventually prolonged and moved ahead to September to allow for better weather conditions. Today, the last day of the festival is the first Sunday in October. In 2006, the Oktoberfest extended two extra days because the first Tuesday, October 3, was a national holiday. Over the past 200 years, Oktoberfest was canceled 24 times due to cholera epidemics and war.
The Oktoberfest is known as the Largest Volksfest (People’s Fair) in the World. In 1999 there were six and a half million visitors to the 42 hectare Theresienwiese. 72% of the people are from Bavaria. 15% of visitors come from foreign countries like the surrounding EU-countries and other non-European countries including the United States, Canada, Australia and East Asia.