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But unfortunately, one would have to say, “It would be that time again!” Because like last year, the Oktoberfest 2021 has been canceled due to Covid19. BUT! We may nevertheless toast, drink a beer, and use this time to learn something about the historical background of the Oktoberfest. Not to mention, some fun facts, so that we can start next year motivated and well prepared for the Wiesn season.
The Oktoberfest (or as Munich affectionately says "Die Wiesn") has been around for over 200 years, and until 2021, has been canceled only 26 times in its history - mostly because of war, but also due to cholera or inflation. This year and last year, the Corona virus was to blame for the fact that there was and is no "Prosit der Gemütlichkeit" in Munich.
Many know that the Oktoberfest began as a celebration of the wedding of King Ludwig I and his wife, Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen in 1810. The whole town celebrated the wedding, which ended with a horse race. What many people do not know, however, is that the Agricultural Society saw the festivities as a practical opportunity to showcase peasant achievements and repeated it in the two following years. It was not until 1819 that the city of Munich took over the organization of the Oktoberfest. Who would have thought at that time that it would one day become the largest folk festival in the world!
The more than 100 rides that are now at the Oktoberfest, show that it is not just about food and beer. What started in 1818 with a very small carousel and two swings became a real amusement park, due to the electricity supply in 1886 - which also brought light to the beer tents and the Theresienwiese (The official name for the Oktoberfest area).
In 1872, it was decided to bring the Oktoberfest forward to September, because of the cooler weather in October. Since then, the Oktoberfest traditionally begins on the Saturday after September 15 and ends on the first Sunday in October (except when October 1st or October 2nd falls on a Sunday - then the Oktoberfest is extended until October 3rd, the Day of German Unity). So, the confusing name is not a trick by the residents of Munich to keep the tourists away from the Oktoberfest, but just a rescheduling to be able to enjoy it more.
It is only since 1950 that the Wiesn begins with the famous keg tapping by the city’s mayor and the shout of “O'zapft is!” In that year, Mayor Thomas Wimmer tapped the first of many kegs at the Schottenhamel tent and established this tradition. At the same time, he set the unflattering record of needing 17 strokes for the first Oktoberfest beer tapping in history. (The record is only 2 strokes.) After the successful tapping, twelve traditional gunshots signal to the other festival tents at the Wiesn: the Oktoberfest is open, and the beer can now be poured! Even though the tents are open at 9 a.m. on the first Saturday, beer may only be served after the shots have been fired. Because of this reason, for those who can’t wait, the first Oktoberfest breakfast is served with the traditional coffee rather than with a first beer.
In 1960, the last horse race took place at the Oktoberfest, but it returned in 2010 for the 200th anniversary. The organizers and participants were dressed in historical clothing and befitting the theme, a "Historical Wiesn" was held in the Southern part of the Theresienwiese.
Whether in the past or today, one thing has remained the same - when drinking beer from the Masskrug (large beer mug) at the Oktoberfest, you have to say “Prost!” And that's exactly what we'll be talking about in our next blog.
A little insight into the drinking etiquette at the Oktoberfest, and some entertaining words to impress.