Once a month, author Dane Huckelbridge gives us a nourishing dose of useful (for the most part) knowledge. In today's post, he pours a mug of Oktoberfest.
The weather is getting crisp, the nights are becoming chill, and what’s that in the air . . . no, not the roar of a football game, but the thunder of a beer tent! Yes, it’s Oktoberfest season again, and as beer-lovers across Bavaria—indeed, the world—dust off their lederhosen and practice their polkas, it may be worthwhile to find out how this peculiar tradition began.
In Germany—that’s where. But everyone knows that. To be more specific, it was in the southern kingdom, or duchy, or electorate—depends who you ask—called Bavaria. Now, the tradition of autumnal beer festivals is hardly unique to Bavaria. But King Ludwig I was as Bavarian as they come. And when he married Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen on October 12, 1810, he made the wise decision to invite the folk of Munich to celebrate with him. And while these royal nuptials may have provided the original impetus, it was horse racing, interestingly enough, that would keep them going. The first horse races that were held at the initial wedding celebration were so popular, they eventually became an annual event.
As the somewhat bizarre wedding anniversary/horse betting spectacular grew, more attractions and events were added, gradually giving it a carnival-like atmosphere. Beer tents were put up to keep off the occasional fall rain, and folk costumes like lederhosen and dirndls were donned to commemorate the fest's uniquely Bavarian heritage.
Today, Munich’s Oktoberfest attracts around seven million visitors each year, who consume about that many liters of beer. And believe it or not, the Red Cross actually sets up beds for those with severe hangovers. So if you overindulge, well, you can always take a quick little catnap—in the Bavarian fashion, of course.