Oktoberfest is an annual fall festival which takes place in Munich, Germany. It is associated with the consumption of large amounts of beer and traditional German foods, along with general merrymaking. With a few exceptions due to wars, Germans have celebrated Oktoberfest every year since 1810, although the early version of the event was dramatically different than the modern incarnation. Many communities with a large German population host their own versions of Oktoberfest every year, encouraging people to celebrate German heritage and join together in fellowship.
The first Oktoberfest was actually a horse race, held to celebrate the wedding of Crown Prince Ludwig I and his wife Therese Saxe-Hildburghausen. The race was such a success that the Germans decided to repeat the event, adding a fair as well, and slowly but steadily, beer entered the mix, eventually becoming the major feature of Oktoberfest. The horse races were dropped in the middle of the 20th century, but it is still possible to purchase a wide range of crafts at the fair, when it happens at the same time as Oktoberfest.
The center of modern Oktoberfest is Theresienwiese, “the field of Therese.” Large tents are erected on the field by many famous German breweries, who serve beer which is enjoyed by attendants of the event. The tents also typically have bands playing German music, and people can wander around tasting different beers, listening to music, eating classic German and Bavarian foods, and looking at traditional crafts. Many people also like to dress in traditional Bavarian costume when they attend Oktoberfest, to get into the spirit of things.
One of the most distinctive features of Oktoberfest is a dark, rich beer called Maß, which is traditionally served in quarter gallon (one liter) tankards. The price of this beer is often a topic of discussion among aficionados of the event; it can be an indicator of general economic health, and price hikes are of course always a subject for complaint. The event opens with the Mayor of Munich ceremonially tapping a keg of Maß, and it lasts for 16 days. During Oktoberfest, huge crowds descend upon Munich, making it the largest fair in the world.
People who want to attend Oktoberfest can often book special Oktoberfest packages with organizations in Munich. These packages can include reservations at specific beer tents, along with vouchers for beer and food. It is a good idea to make arrangements to attend well in advance, as accommodations fill up quickly.