Oktoberfest is upon us!! Today kicked off the 200th wedding anniversary of Prince (later to become King) Ludwig I and his bride, Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen of Bavaria (try saying that 3 times fast, or even once slowly)… Question: if 100 years warrants a 10K diamond – and according to Google it does – what is the expected gift for 200 years??? I have not discovered the answer, but I suspect it is BIG!
Prince Ludwig I and Therese married in October of 1810, kicking off their new life together with a ‘little’ one-week long celebration. The entire town was invited, something unheard of in that day and age for a royal wedding. The wedding ceremony got the ball rolling on October 12th, and the festivities continued through the week, eventually being brought to a close with a horse race on October 17th. Thus began what many consider to be the most celebrated festival of the world. Oktoberfest has grown and evolved over the past two centuries and has expanded to countries all over the world. Munich locals call it ‘Die Wiesn’, referring to the meadow in which the royal couple was married…and where it is still held today. The horse race – a highlight of the earliest festivals – is no longer included in the many activities; however, many other traditions and events have taken its place. The ‘official tapping of the keg’ is one of the highlights…obviously beer-drinking is directly associated with Oktoberfest and has been an important part of its celebration since around 1818. And of course you really cannot have an authentic Oktoberfest without traditional folk music and men dressed in lederhosen and women in Bavarian dirndls.
I hear the rumblings of ‘but why is it called Oktoberfest when it is held in September?’…As you can see, it did originate in October and was held solely in October for many years. However, as it grew from one week into several it was decided to move the start date up to September. This allowed the festivities to be enjoyed during more favorable weather conditions. Now it begins the third Saturday of September and runs through the first Sunday of October. A special stein is designed each year, and this year’s stein features a portrait of the happy royal couple to commemorate their 200th anniversary. Since 1810 the festival has been held 177 times. Those years which did not see a festival were due to either war or cholera epidemics.
My posts over the next couple of weeks will delve deeper into the history and traditions of Oktoberfest. I will include information on traditional foods and drink served at the festival. My German heritage eagerly awaits this opportunity!
Until next time: Guten Appetit!