Oktoberfest gingerbread

Oktoberfest in Bavaria

If you are planning a vacation in Bavaria, Germany be sure to be there in time for the Oktoberfest celebrations in Munich. This folk festival is extremely popular with millions attending each year from around the world. Despite its name most of the festival occurs in September. It’s a two week+ happening starting in mid to late September and ending on the first Sunday in October. In 2022, the first Oktoberfest in a few years due to covid, the dates are Sept 17 to Oct 3.

The 2022 festival will be the 187th time it has been celebrated. Traditionally, Oktoberfest started from the time of Crown Prince Ludwig’s marriage to Princess Therese of Sachsen-Hildburghausen in 1810. People had such a great time that the festivities continued every year with additions over time.

More Than Beer

Contrary to what many North Americans might think, there is more to Oktoberfest than beer. Traditional costumes, food, parades, music, and carnival rides are the order of the days. Note: Oktoberfest is free admission but obviously, the beer, food, attractions, etc. are not. (A smaller, more traditional and quieter area called Oide Wiesn does charge a minimal fee.). Here are the main events of the festival:

Oktoberfest Beer Wagon

Decorated beer wagon (Image: Pixabay)

Oktoberfest Band

Parade band (Image: Pixabay)

Oktoberfest band members

After the parade. Note the lederhosen (Image: Pixabay)

The Main Events

  • The parade of the Weisen landlords and breweries. This occurs just prior to the official opening of the festival and can have upwards of a thousand participants including draft horses pulling flower-laden wagons, and marching bands. The parade is always led by the Müncher Kindl, the city’s mascot (usually a young girl) on horse back. The parade is free but you must purchase tickets to sit in the stands.
  • The official opening takes place precisely at noon on the first Saturday at the Scottenhamel hall when the mayor taps the first festival beer barrel for a glass and yells” O’zpft is!”
  • On the first Sunday is the parade of costumes led again by the Müncher Kindl. Historic costume groups, clubs, bands and more take part all wearing traditional garb. Tickets can be purchased to view from the stands enroute.
  • There is a traditional ecumenical church service during the Weisen. It is free.
  • A landlords’ concert comprised of three hundred musicians performs in front of the Bavarian statue and is conducted traditionally by either the mayor or other important festival personage. No admission is charged. At the end, thousands of balloons are released to rise above the grounds and float away.
  • Traditional gun salutes held again at the Bavarian statue both begin and end Oktoberfest.

The Beer Tents

There are about 17 large beer tents and upwards of 21 smaller ones. Reservations are recommended and you can do so online or by phone. If you are very lucky, you may get a seat without one. Beer and food vouchers are used to pay the waiters. Families are welcome but the drinking age is sixteen. A few words to the wise: you cannot take backpacks or large bags into the grounds, only service animals are permitted, and baby carriages are discouraged. Strollers are allowed at certain times only. Similar to airports, no items which can be used as a weapon are permitted either – which is probably a good idea with all the beer drinking! These security measures make for a safer, more enjoyable time for all.

Oktoberfest-carnival ride

One of the fairground rides (Image: Pixabay)

Oktoberfest tent

A large beer tent (Image: Pixabay)

Oktoberfest food & beer

Beer and food (Image: Bigstock)

Join In On The Fun

Experience the numerous carnival rides available on the Theresienweise grounds ranging from a small Ferris wheel for the timid to the tallest mobile drop tower in the world,”Skyfall”. The festival also hosts the largest portable roller coaster (five loops). There are stands selling the traditional gingerbread cookies, souvenir beer steins, hats and so on. Bird lovers might want to purchase a vogelpfeifer which is a traditional bird call whistle. To make bird sounds it might take a bit of practise with this simplistic device which sits on your tongue pressed against your teeth! (Take cash as credit cards are not accepted at the beer tents and other places.)

If you wish to blend in with the local crowd, consider traditional dress. Women wear dirndls (gathered skirts) with blouses and aprons. Men wear fancy embroidered lederhosen (knee-length deerskin pants), loferls (calf stockings – no feet!), white shirts, and sometimes jackets. Or you can just enjoy the wide variety of traditional outfits swirling around you which may be the best idea as there are nuances to the articles of clothing that may not be apparent to the visitor. For example, where an apron is tied signals the marital status of the wearer. Most recommendations though are for donning the traditional dress. You have probably come a distance so why not join in the fun!

Oktoberfest-dirndl

Dirndl & apron tied in the back (a waitress or widow) (Image: Pixabay)

Oktoberfest hat

A traditional hat (Image: Pixabay)

Oktoberfest hosiery

Hosiery but not traditional loferls ! (Image: Pixabay)

Plan Your Visit

Many guided tours may include a visit to Munich’s Oktoberfest, or perhaps you can arrange a pre-or post-stay on a river cruise. A custom tour is also a possibility as there is so much to experience in Bavaria itself. Whatever you decide, contact your real travel expert to plan your visit to this famous German festival – and then sit back and dream of steins of beer, bratwurst, and pretzels …

Oktoberfest beer

The main event – beer! (Image: Pixabay)

The main image of a traditional gingerbread is courtesy of Bigstock.