"Ein Prosit der Gemütlichkeit" – a toast to cheer and good times – sing revelers at Munich's Oktoberfest. The world's largest folk festival, according to organizers, runs from Sept. 16 to Oct. 3 this year.
The event, which started in Munich in 1810, gained international popularity and is celebrated around the globe now. Organizers report that over 6 million people flock to the city every year to don dirndls and lederhosen and drink lots of beer.
But why does a festival named for October happen in September? It has to do with the weather.
History of Oktoberfest
The very first gathering was actually a wedding celebration for Prince Regent Ludwig of Bavaria and Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen. A member of the Bavarian National Guard had a wild hair and suggested a twist on a traditional wedding party. He wanted a grand horse race, according to the official website of Oktoberfest.
A waitress carries one liter glasses of beer in the Hofbrauhaus tent on the opening day of the 2022 Oktoberfest beer fest on September 17, 2022 in Munich, Germany. (Credit: Johannes Simon/Getty Images)
The couple married on Oct. 12, 1810, and the horse race took place on Oct. 17. There were no beer tents or rides, but the idea took off. In 1824, the city awarded the man the first Gold Citizen's Medal for the invention.
According to the festival's website, once the popularity of the idea was clear, the Bavarian Agricultural Association decided to organize the event.
"The newfound festivities created the perfect opportunity for the association to shine a spotlight on their own wares," according to the festival's website.
Napoleon forced the new ag fair and festival to take a break in 1813. After a few years more, war and cholera canceled the party for about 20 years.
Welcome roast chicken
Organizers highlight 1850, when the first roasted chicken tent joined. Chicken is still a tradition today. Vendors sold a record 807,710 chickens in 1991.
Revelers cheer with 1-liter-mugs of beer during the opening weekend of the 2019 Oktoberfest on September 21, 2019 in Munich, Germany. This year's Oktoberfest, which will draw millions of visitors from all over the world, will run from October 21 thro
In came the booths, carousels, electric lights and performers over the years. Soon breweries set up enormous beer tents with music instead of stalls.
October is cool and dark
In 1872, revelers grumbled about the weather.
"Because the weather in October was usually already cooler and the days are significantly shorter, one let the Oktoberfest begin in September," according to the festival's website. "Since 1872, (it has) always (been held) on the first Saturday after September 15 until the first Sunday in October."
After a break from 1939-1948 for World War II, the annual horse race was stretched out. The race now happens only on major anniversaries.
In 1950, Munich's mayor tapped a beer barrel in the Schottenhamel-Festhalle and said, "O'zapft is," or "Strike it lucky" in English, according to the site. Since then, the term gained cult status, and the mayor taps the first keg at noon to kick off the festival.
The number of blows until the barrel is tapped has become a competition.
"Since then, each of his successors has probably had more respect for the tapping than for election day, because the reputation of the mayor depends on the number of strokes required," explained the site.
Seven strikes are the most, while two are the least.
So many world records have been set at Oktoberfest through the years.
- In 1913, the Pschorr-Bräurosl tent hosted 12,000 guests. The largest tent today accommodates only 10,000, according to organizers.
- The most beer consumed goes to two men who, in 1901, drank 10 beers each, according to the official website. The traditional beer stein holds one liter or a quarter-gallon. The 2023 prices range from $13.40 to $15.90.
- In 2014, guests drank 7.7 million liters of beer, enough to fill more than three Olympic-sized pools. Consumption in 2022 was a mere 5.6 million liters, according to Statista.
- The world's largest temporary amusement park, with 50 portable mechanical rides, pops up at Oktoberfest every year, according to Guinness World Records.