Oktoberfest: History, Origins, and Modern-day Misunderstandings

Oktoberfest might be the largest and most popular folk festival in existence. Every year, the festival attracts millions of visitors. However, after over 200 years, the festival is often misunderstood. Let’s take a look at the history of this beer-loving celebration and how it continues today. 

A Brief History Oktoberfest

Many people believe that the first festival of Oktoberfest was intended to celebrate a marriage. There was indeed a celebration beginning in October of 1810 in Munich, Germany that celebrated the marriage of the crown prince of Bavaria (later to become King Louis I) and Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen. After this event, an annual celebration featured agricultural exhibits and food and drink booths and eventually grew into Oktoberfest.

However, outdoor celebrations had been taking place long before the Bavarian nuptials took place. These open-air festivals used the gathering to rid the summer beer stocks in preparation for the autumn brewing season. Some historians, however, will go back even further to the days of the Romans in the colosseum, claiming the “Panem et Circenses” (or bread and games). Celebrations are the true origins.

However the festivities originated, they have certainly gone through many changes over the years. Small booths developed into large beer halls with balconies and stages to feature live music and performances. Today, it is a tradition that the mayor of Munich opens the festivities by tapping the first keg (how’s that for representation?!) and breweries present themselves in unique ways. Some construct floats in a parade, others set up beer wagons, dress in costumes, and even feature amusement park rides. Today, Oktoberfest welcomes around six million people to Munich every fall.

Misunderstanding and Myths About Modern Celebrations


It takes place in October

Most of Oktoberfest takes place in September. This is mainly because as the festival grew, the more favorable September weather better supported the outdoor festivities. This move initially took place back in the 1870s.

It’s chaotic

Sure, spirits are high and the atmosphere is fun, but just like with any other festival or tavern, if you act inappropriately, you’ll be kicked out.

You can find beer from all over the world

As required by law, Munich-brews are the only ones allowed at Oktoberfest. The six main breweries are Augustiner, Hacker-Pschorr, Hofbrau, Lowenbrau, Paulaner, and Spaten. Since we can’t all make it to Munich, other communities hold their own fall celebrations–even brewing their Oktoberfest-style beers. Looking to try out a new flavor of your own? Find brewing barrels, flavor-enhancing infusion spirals, and much more at Infusionspiral.com