Munich’s annual celebration begins with the tapping of the first beer keg, this year on Saturday, September 22, 2018, at noon. The cannons will sound, The Festival Queen will be seated, appropriately, atop a giant keg, the Mayor will strike the fateful blow, pour a mugful, and hand it to the governor of Bavaria.
From then until October 7, revelers from around the world will consume oceans of wonderful German beer, sausages, ducks, chickens, whatever you can imagine in a giant park with tents constructed just for this party.
There are big tents and small tents. Locals have their favorite beers, where they will reserve with their friends year after year; these are, no surprise, big ones, and they have food as well as their stellar brews. The smaller ones tend to specialize in a particular food, seafood or duck or wurst or pastry and, of course, also offer beverages. It’s not only a beer festival, it is also a chance to indulge in fantastic rotisserie chicken, those wonderful German sausages, really a massive eating opportunity, and a time to enjoy live Bavarian music.
Construction of the “tents”, temporary structures, begins in the summer, this year in July, and they are hardly what one would find in a campground.
Munichers and visitors alike don traditional Bavarian garments – lederhosen and knee socks (some just a woolen band) or, for the ladies, decorated blouses and dirndl skirts – and some will march in the Costume Parade. Dressing the part is not a requirement by any means, and garments at all price levels can be found all year round in specialized Munich boutiques. Some folks will bargain shop (The one timers? The tourists who will reuse once at a dress-up party on October 31?). Others will be sporting beautifully handcrafted garb that can last a lifetime. Really serious Munichers will pull out their outfits for other beer festivals throughout the year, or any occasion that warrants being in old fashioned attire.
The party stared in 1810 as a celebration of Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig’s marriage to Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen, and ran a full week. The event was so beloved that it was extended little by little, and later moved to September (but always ending in October) simply because the weather was more cooperative for revelers partying in tents.
Side note: Ludwig I was the grandfather of the notorious Ludwig II (also known as Crazy Ludwig or the Swan King) whose tastes for elaborate castles and the fine art of opera approached bankrupting him. Ironically, attractions like Neuschwanstein (on which the Disney logo was modeled) are now among the most lucrative of all German tourist attractions.
Oktoberfest travels around the world, and is a fabulous excuse for an evening of good company and feasting on Bavarian specialities, as myMEGusta did recently with friends at the Rock Center Café in New York. If you have a chance in your city this year, try it!
For a real time look at the plans for Oktoberfest 2018 (and for a link to the shop to buy some of those socks!) go to: https://www.oktoberfest.de/en