This Week in History: Launch of Oktoberfest

Autumn is in many ways a melancholy time of year, with the end of summer and the start of school and university. Despite this, autumn does also bring with it a sense of anticipation. This is the season of The Great British Bake Off and Strictly Come Dancing and, in particular, the season of festivities: Halloween, Guy Fawkes day, and the added joy of Oktoberfest. While Oktoberfest may seem to many just an excuse to get drunk, its origin was in fact the celebration of a wedding.

Oktoberfest originated in Munich with the marriage between Kronprinz (Crown Prince) Ludwig of Bavaria and Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen on 12 October 1810. The people of Munich were invited to celebrate the union, with festivities held on the fields in front of the city gates. The decision to repeat the celebrations the next year marked it as tradition, and so launched Oktoberfest.

From 1810 the festivities continued with the exception of wartime and epidemics. While it started as a royal celebration, from 1819 it was organised by the citizens. Today, in Munich, Oktoberfest is the largest festival in the world with more than seven million people attending the opening ceremony. It is held over 16 days and consists of parades, fairground rides and concerts throughout.

It was in 2013 that Edinburgh adopted the Bavarian celebration, fully committing to the German traditions and culture, making it so much more than drinking beer and eating bratwurst. With the authentic German beer and foods comes a giant tent that accommodates 1,500 people, waiters and waitresses dressed up in lederhosen and dirndls, as well as live music.

While Oktoberfest did originate with the celebration of royalty, its continuation after the replacement of the monarchy showed how it has become more about bringing joy to the people and community spirit. Its origin still remains significant, however, and its impact to this day reveres the same carefree and joyous feeling that was at the centre of the very first Oktoberfest in 1810.

 

Image: Usien

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