Munich Oktoberfest: Why It's the Best Party on Earth

history oktoberfest

oktoberfest in munich

The Munich Oktoberfest, or "Wiesn" as it's called locally, is the world's largest beer fest, and probably the best beer party on earth.

The 16-day party attracts over 6 million people every year who consume 7 million liters of beer, 200,000 pairs of pork sausage, and 480,000 roasted chickens. If you take out children and adults who don’t drink beer, then we can safely conclude that those who do drink beer are having a lot of it. The minimum serving size is the 1 Liter Masskrug, which is about a quarter gallon. It's quite normal for a sturdy Bavarian to have 5 or 6 of those over the course of a good day.

While the event reinforces stereotypical images of beer-loving, oompah-dancing Germans dressed up like fairy tale characters, visitors to the annual event come from all over the world. You'd be surprised at how many Aussies, American and Kiwis you find inside the Hofbrau tent. In fact, it's as if they own it. Oktoberfest is also a huge flirty hook-up fest, where many new relationships - short and long ones - celebrate their beginning. In fact, it's quite common for Munich locals to meet their future husband or wife there, because everybody's there. 

The occasion for the first Oktoberfest in 1810 was the wedding of a Bavarian prince. The citizens of Munich were invited to attend the festivities held on the fields in front of the city gates. For five full days they were eating, drinking, and enjoying parades, watching shooting competitions and horse races. The fields were named Theresienwiese ("Theresa's fields"), in honor of the Crown Princess who got married to the Prince that day. The locals sometimes call it the “Wiesn", which is Bavarian slang for "meadow".

The majority of the Oktoberfest actually takes place in September, due to weather. In the second half of September, Munich enjoys pleasant Indian summer days, whereas the weather gets nasty when October arrives. In early October, the entire city of Munich falls into post-Wiesn depression, when the happy-anything-goes atmosphere of the Wiesn makes way for the cold, lonely days of fall. Hopefully the single folks found their match at the Oktoberfest to have good company for the coming winter.

The festival has, in its history, been cancelled a few times due to war, economic depression and cholera. Alas, we are witnessing one of those unfortunate times: For the second year in a row the event has been called off due to coronavirus. This year marks the 26th time the festival has been cancelled in more than 200 years.

The opening day of the festival is marked by a colorful parade of carriages, floats and costumes winding its way through the streets of Munich. Oktoberfest is a big celebration of popular folk music. People interlock their arms, sing along and have a jolly good time. Every 5 minutes or so the music stops for the "Ein Prosit" tune, which is the biggest collective toast the world has ever seen. Imagine 10,000 folks raising their beer mug at the same time. It's a truly awesome moment, and a profitable one for the Wiesn-Wirt. That explains why it's happening every 5 minutes.

The festival has 14 tents, each able to fit around 10,000 people, with a different ambiance and operated by a different Wiesn-Wirt. Setting up the Wiesn is a logistical wonder, because it's a city in itself, built in just a few weeks, to serve millions of visitors. There's nothing else like it in the world. 

Running a beer tent at the Wiesn is the best vocation you can have in Munich. A Wiesn-Wirt is a demi-god, and everyone on the planet wants to be his friend during Oktoberfest to get a coveted spot inside the tent. Tables are booked out years in advance. Being a Wiesn-Wirt is also a license to print money. Demand has been steady for decades and can be easily forecasted. Visitors' willingness to pay is endless, because they all get drunk with an attitude of now-or-never, because in two weeks it's all over. The Wiesn-Wirt gets to charge pretty much whatever he wants. Supply and demand.

Many U.S. cities hold Oktoberfests modeled after the original one in Munich. While it is impossible to replicate the awesome energy of the Wiesn, it's for sure better than nothing.

We can help you get some authentic Wiesn flavors onto your table. While we don't sell the beer, we do offer authentic Oktoberfest goodies such as Stollen, Lebkuchen and Pretzel roll, all baked in Germany. Click here to place your order, we ship nationwide.


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