On this date in 1810 Munich held the first Oktoberfest. Modern Oktoberfest is purportedly the world’s largest annual street festival. 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. Locally, it is often simply called Wiesn, 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.
The Munich Oktoberfest originally took place during the 16 days up to, and including, the first Sunday in October. In 1994, the schedule was modified in response to German reunification so that if the first Sunday in October falls on the 1st or 2nd, then the festival would go on until October 3 (German Unity Day). Thus, the festival is now 17 days when the first Sunday is October 2 and 18 days when it is October 1. In 2010, the festival lasted until the first Monday in October, to mark the anniversary of the event. The festival is held in an area named the Theresienwiese (field, or meadow, of Therese), often called Wiesn for short, located near Munich’s center. Large quantities of Oktoberfest Beer are consumed, with almost 7 million liters served during the 16 day festival in 2007. Visitors may also enjoy a mixture of attractions, such as amusement rides, stalls and games, as well as a wide variety of traditional foods.
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 in 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 “Wiesn.” 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.
In 1811, an agricultural show was added to promote Bavarian agriculture. The horse race persisted until 1960, the agricultural show still exists and is held every four years in the southern part of the festival grounds. In 1816, carnival booths appeared; the main prizes were silver, porcelain, and jewelry. The founding citizens of Munich assumed responsibility for festival management in 1819, and it was decided to make the Oktoberfest an annual event. Later, it was lengthened and the date pushed forward, because days are longer and warmer at the end of September.
To honor the marriage of Prince Ludwig and Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen, a parade took place for the first time in 1810. Since 1850, this has become an annual event and an important component of the Oktoberfest. Eight thousand people—mostly from Bavaria—in traditional costumes walk from Maximilian Street through the centre of Munich to the Oktoberfest grounds. The march is led by the Münchner Kindl or “Munich child” in the Bavarian dialect of German e name of the symbol on the coat of arms of the city Munich.
In 1887, the Entry of the Oktoberfest Staff and Breweries took place for the first time. This event showcases the splendidly decorated horse teams of the breweries and the bands that play in the festival tents. This event always takes place on the first Saturday of the Oktoberfest and serves as the official prelude to the Oktoberfest celebration
In 1910, Oktoberfest celebrated its 100th anniversary. Some 120,000 liters of beer were poured. In 1913, the Bräurosl was founded, which was the largest Oktoberfest beer tent ever, with room for ~ 12,000 people.
Since 1950, there has been a traditional festival opening: A twelve gun salute and the tapping of the first keg of Oktoberfest beer at 12:00 by the incumbent Mayor of Munich with the cry “O’zapft is!” (“It’s tapped!” in the Austro-Bavarian dialect) opens the Oktoberfest. The Mayor then gives the first beer to the Minister-President of the State of Bavaria. The first mayor to tap the keg was Thomas Wimmer.
Before the festival officially starts at 12 PM, there is the famous paradesof the traditional gun clubs, waitresses and landlords of the tents. Mostly there are two different parades which both end at the Theresienwiesn. They start around 9.45 a.m. to 10.50 a.m.
Traditionally visitors wear Bavarian hats (Tirolerhüte), during the Oktoberfest which contain a tuft of goat hair. In Germany, goat hair is highly valued and prized, making it one of the most expensive objects for sale. The more tufts of goat hair on one’s hat, the wealthier one is considered to be. Technology helping, this tradition ended with the appearance of cheap goat hair imitations on the market.
2010 marked the 200th anniversary of Oktoberfest. For the anniversary, there was a horse race in historical costumes on opening day. A so-called “Historische Wiesn” (historical Oktoberfest) took place, starting one day earlier than usual on the southern part of the festival grounds. A specially brewed beer (solely available at the tents of the historical Oktoberfest), horse races, and a museum tent gave visitors an impression of how the event felt a century ago.
Only beer conforming to the Reinheitsgebot, and brewed within the city limits of Munich, can be served at the Munich Oktoberfest. The Reinheitsgebot, sometimes called the “German Beer Purity Law” or the “Bavarian Purity Law” in English, is a regulation concerning the production of beer in the Holy Roman Empire and its successor state, Germany. In the original text, the only ingredients that could be used in the production of beer were water, barley and hops. Yeast was not identified as an ingredient although obviously it is essential. Brewers generally took some sediment from the previous fermentation and added it to the next, the sediment generally containing the necessary organisms to perform fermentation.
The law originated on 30 November 1487, when Albert IV, Duke of Bavaria promulgated it, specifying three ingredients – water, malt and hops – for the brewing of beer. Later, in the city of Ingolstadt in the duchy of Bavaria on 23 April 1516, two other dukes endorsed the law as one to be followed in their duchies, adding standards for the sale of beer.
The Reinheitsgebot is no longer the law in Germany but tradition requires that it be observed for Oktoberfest. Beers meeting these criteria are designated Oktoberfest Beer.
The breweries that can produce Oktoberfest Beer under the criteria are:
- Staatliches Hofbräu-München
There are many traditional Bavarian dishes eaten at Oktoberfest, such as Hendl (roast chicken), Schweinebraten (roast pork), Schweinshaxe (grilled ham hock), Steckerlfisch (grilled fish on a stick), Würstl (sausages) along with Brezen (pretzel), Knödel (potato or bread dumplings), Käsespätzle (cheese noodles), Reiberdatschi (potato pancakes), Sauerkraut or Rotkohl/Blaukraut (red cabbage) along with such Bavarian delicacies as Obatzda (a spiced cheese-butter spread) and Weisswurst (a white sausage).
Schweinshaxe is one of my favorite dishes and is especially popular in Bavaria. The Bavarian version is often served with potato dumplings and red cabbage, or with sauerkraut and potatoes.
1 pork knuckle per person
salt and pepper
garlic clove, peeled (optional)
1 bottle beer, preferably dark
1 onion, roughly chopped
caraway seed (whole or ground)
The day before open the hocks’ packaging and let them sit overnight in the refrigerator. This dries out the skin and ensures it will crisp nicely when baked.
Next day preheat oven to 350°F/175°C
Put the hocks on a roasting pan, moisten the pan with a just a bit of beer, and salt and pepper the skin well, rubbing it in. If desired you can rub it with a clove of garlic. Make a bed of onions, add caraway to taste, and place the hocks on top.
Roast for about 4 hours. Add more beer if the pan dries.
When the hocks reach about 200°F/95°C internal temperature turn the oven up to 450°F/230°C degrees or turn on the the broiler and crisp the skin for about 10 -15 minutes.
Serve immediately either on individual plates or on a carving platter and carve at the table. Serve with potato dumplings and red cabbage, or with sauerkraut and potatoes. Use the pan juices as a gravy.