By Kim O’Hare
If there’s any doubt that summer is officially over, the celebration of Oktoberfest around the world is proof positive. From Munich to Sidney Australia, from Hong Kong to Kitchener, Canada Oktoberfest celebrations are in full swing. So, what’s it all about, what exactly is Oktoberfest?
Well, once upon a time, long long ago in a far away land known as Bavaria, a Crown Prince, who later became King Ludgwig I, married a beautiful princess called Therese Von Sachesen-Hildenburghausen.
The loyal soldiers in the Prince’s National Guard thought a horse race would be a fitting way to celebrate the happy event. King Max, proud father of the Prince, gave his consent to a series of races and so they became the finale of five days of wedding festivities on October 17th, 1810.
The horse races became an annual event and were combined with the state agricultural fair the following year and that marked the beginning of what has become known as Oktoberfest.
It wasn’t until 1818 that booths, serving food and drink, were set up. In the late 1800s, the booths had grown into large beer halls or tents, which are still set up each year on the Theresienwiese named in honour of Ludwig’s bride.
Today, a large mid-way and fair accompany Oktoberfest in Munich, the largest celebration of its kind in the world. The festival extends over two weeks, and ends on the first Sunday of October. Oktoberfest is one of the world’s largest parties.
Munich breweries supply the staple of the event - German beer! Many even brew special “Oktoberfest beer” just for the fair, with up to six million litres consumed. While beer is the staple of Oktoberfest, the food is not be be overlooked: 500,000 broiled chickens (hendel) and countless pork sausages, fish, wursts and ham hocks, almonds covered in melted sugar.
Of course anything that is that much fun is bound to be copied, and today there are Oktoberfests in cities and towns around the world. In some areas the timing varies slightly, but wherever you are in late September to mid-October, you are probably never very far from an Oktoberfest celebration. If you are travelling, just check the internet for an Oktoberfest near you.
When you combine food and drink you must add music. Two unofficial anthems of Oktoberfest have emerged, the Beer Barrel Polka and in more recent years the Chicken Dance Song. Click the links below to listen to these two tunes.