Bavaria is celebrating culture through the Oktoberfest bringing in millions of visitors to its capital Munich each year. The two-week annual event started on Saturday 19 September 2015 and will run up until Sunday October 4. Africans and their friends living in Munich, Germany and from other countries around the world, join in the celebration. But how did it all started and what is there to enjoy in the biggest beer festival worldwide?
Celebrating a royal wedding
Once upon a time…Oktoberfest started as a wedding celebration hundreds of years ago in Munich. It was a royal wedding as Prince Ludwig (who later became King Ludwig 1) married his darling Princess Therese of Saxe- Hildburghausen on October 12, 1810. The tradition for such ceremonies is that the people of Munich were invited to join in the celebration and festivities that followed. The venue was the meadows “Theresienwiese” named after the princess. The celebration took days with various events including a well-attended horse race held in honor of the royal couple on October 17 .
The horse race became the excuse to hold the celebration annually giving birth to what we call Oktoberfest today. By 1811, a showcase of Bavarian agriculture was added to the horse race and the festival became bigger each passing year. Millions of visitors and tourists are expected during the festival and this year 2015 over 6 million people are expected to attend.
“O` Zapft is!”
The official opening of the Festival is preceded by a cultural parade. People dressed in traditional clothes match through the streets of Munich displaying various aspects of the Bavarian lifestyle like farming, hunting etc. Alongside them are horses hooked to carts full with big barrels of beer.
But the Oktoberfest is not open until the official ceremony which gives the green light for beer lovers to immerse themselves in this Bavarian specialty – the tapping of the first keg by the incumbent Mayor of the city of Munich at 12:00 noon. He hits the pump in the keg with a hammer like tool whilst shouting “O`zapft is!” in the Bavarian dialect meaning “it’s tapped! “. He does not drink the first beer that comes out of the tap but gives it to the Minister-President of the State of Bavaria for which Munich is the capital city. This traditional opening ceremony was introduced in 1950 together with a twelve gun salute. This year, this duty was done by the current Mayor Dieter Reiter and the Minister-President of Bavaria Horst Seehofer.
Dirndls and lederhosen
One of the many experiences visitors to the Oktoberfest wish to get is an opportunity to wear something that conforms to the Bavarian tradition. One of the sexy pieces many women in Bavaria and Austria own and are proud of is the “Dirndl” – a dress tailored with a loose skirt, worn with a shirt top underneath and an apron on top. It used to be a dress for peasants and farmers`wives but has been modernized in recent times and even had many twists to it making it more and more popular worldwide. In the past years there has emerged a new mode, “Dirndl a l`Africaine” (Dirndls made with African fabrics) a style introduced and promoted now by the fashion house NOH NEE in Munich. It is increasingly becoming popular and showing the possibility of getting a world where cultures can blend to celebrate humankind.
The “lederhose” (German word for Breeches) is the main costume worn by men during the festival. A trouser made with leather and considered as work or leisure clothes in old times. Now it has been adapted to be the traditional clothes for men in Bavaria, Austria and some parts of Italy. But don`t forget the hats that go with them. The Bavarian hats (Tirolerhüte as it is called in German) are loved by visitors. You might see a kind of hairy feather on the top of the hats, the Gamsbart which before now was a show of someone’s wealth – the more Gamsbart you had, the wealthier you were as the hair was expensive and a valued treasure.
Up and about in the “Wiesn”
Munich residents fondly refer to the Oktoberfest as the “Wiesn” a short form of the name of the Venue so don`t be puzzled when you hear them call it that. As the biggest beer festival in the world, one of the main attractions of many visitors is to finally have a taste of that special beer that is mainly brewed for this festival. Millions of mugs (maß) of beer are expected to be drunken by visitors and the numbers go up yearly. (Maß is the big glass used to serve beer mainly at the Oktoberfest but also in traditional restaurants in Bavaria).
Traditional food is served in tents but also in kiosks that are installed all around the venue. Don`t forget to eat one of our favorites “Sweine braten” (roasted pork) or sausages with “Brezen”. There are more on the menu in many tents which holds hundreds if not thousands of visitors of the Oktoberfest. The tents are most times full but a great place to be in as traditional live music is played throughout the day till the evening. A special place to sit, eat drink and have fun. The tents are mainly Hackerbräu (with the blue and white) the Winzerer Fähndl, the Augustiner Festhalle and more. There is even a wine tent for people who do not like beer.
There are many ways to get drunk at the Oktoberfest even if you do not drink alchohol. For people looking for other amusements, the funfair games like “merry-go-round”, “skyfall”, candyfloss stalls and shooting galleries add to give the festival a beautiful blend of culture and entertainment in one. So it can be a real place for a fun filled family day out!
Share with us your photos attending the Wiesn` by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, to get it published in our upcoming issue of impressions from Oktoberfest 2015!
Photo Credits: Nohnee/Anna Mpenzi facebook