Oktoberfest Overweeningly Celebrates 200 Years

With Oktoberfest just underway, there’s still some time to celebrate and experience this essential south German holiday, even if you couldn’t or can’t make it there in person this year. 2010 is a milestone year for this Bavarian tradition, as it celebrates 200 years of fun, food and beer.

Here are some of the festival’s most enduring traditions and experiences.

The Beer

What would Oktoberfest be without the BEER? There are about fourteen huge beer tents where you can enter (at no charge) and drink to your heart’s content.

You don’t want to miss the Hofbräu Festzelt, the largest and most popular — at least with the tourists — of them all. The festive music of the oom-pah bands is a highlight of the Hofbräu’s tent, as well as their signature brew, Hofbräu. In fact, there are six breweries that are represented at Oktoberfest.

In addition to Hofbräu, you can try Spaten, Lowenbrau, Paulaner (that’s where I usually found the most beautiful ladies), Augustiner or Hacker Pschorr. Generally, these are served in a one-liter beer stein where you can (barely) raise the glass and toast your fellow revelers with the German word for Cheers! — Prost! :-)

The Date

Many people wonder why Oktoberfest actually begins in September. We Germans do, in fact, know our dates and have a reason for this discrepancy.

The first Oktoberfest began as a wedding celebration for Crown Prince (and later King) Ludwig I. He married Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen on October 7, 1810. Five days after, on October 12, Ludwig decided to hold a horse race in honor of his recent nuptials. The event was such a success, that he did it again the following year. By 1816, there was already a carnival feel to the festival with new booths and events.

They eventually decided to move the festival into September. One reason was that the weather was a bit nicer and milder at that time. In 1994, it was modified again to end with German Unity Day on October 3.

The length of Oktoberfest is dependent on what date the first Sunday of the month happens to be.

The Food

When you’ve drunk your fill of that delicious German beer, there’s no better accompaniment than some traditional Bavarian food. Some Oktoberfest specialties include pork knuckles (Haxn), spit-roasted chicken (Hendl), skewers of grilled whitefish (Steckerlfisch) and of course, German sausage (Wurstl).

And don’t overlook the snacks! Bavaria is famous for its over-sized pretzels (Brezel) and almonds glazed with sugar (Gebrannte Mandeln).

The Dancing

Music is an important part of Oktoberfest. All the beer tents will feature oom-pah bands or other traditional music. And with music, of course, there’s plenty of dancing opportunities. The most famous of these traditional dances is the Chicken Dance!

To begin, make your fingers into the shape of a chicken beak, opening and closing them. Next is the arm-flapping, with your elbows out and hands under your armpits. Then comes the bended knees and body-wiggling. Finally, stand up again, clap your hands and spinning in a circle or grab a partner and spin with them.

Each move is repeated four times, and gets faster as the song plays on.

And the advanced version is to do the aforementioned on the tables. ;-)

The Funfair

The Funfair has been another vital part of the Oktoberfest celebrations since the 19th century. There are roller coasters, Ferris wheels and other thrill rides. There’s even more food available here on the Budenstraße, or Avenue of Booths, and games of chance.

And don’t forget the souvenir and numerous other stands, where you can buy/shoot/play/box something that will help you to always remember your time at our Oktoberfest.

—Marcus

 

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