What is Oktoberfest?
Oktoberfest is a German Festival (more a phenomenon!) that celebrates a historical wedding. You might have thought that it’s a festival to celebrate beer, but you couldn’t be more wrong! It all started 200 years ago when Prince Ludwig, the Bavarian Crown Prince, married the Saxony-Hildburghausen Princess Therese. The wedding celebrations lasted for days and days and everyone had such a fabulous time that they decided that they would have a festival every year!
So when someone asks you – what is Oktoberfest? You can tell them that it’s actually a wedding anniversary celebration! You might be even more surprised to learn that at the wedding – they didn’t serve any beer! It didn’t take long however before beer became more and more popular in Germany and ended up becoming an integral part of these anniversary festivities.
How is Oktoberfest celebrated?
Every year more than 7 million people roll into Munich to celebrate Oktoberfest, but it’s also celebrated worldwide. This year, the festivities start on 21st September and run right on through to 6th October, so there’s plenty of time to get your costumes ready for this year’s Oktoberfest.
Since it’s called Oktoberfest, you might wonder why it isn’t held entirely in October, well it was! The problem is that it became so popular that it needed to be extended, and since in the northern hemisphere, September is warmer than October in Germany, the organisers decided to backdate it to September for the warmer weather.
Another surprising fact about Oktoberfest is that they don’t simply serve beer, they serve Oktoberfest bier (which is really just beer made in Munich), which has become something of an institution in Munich. So how is Oktoberfest celebrated? Well if you want to celebrate Oktoberfest properly, you must only drink beer from one of Munich’s six breweries – Paulaner, Hacker-Pschorr, Spaten, Augustiner, Hofbrau and Lowenbrau, and the beer must pass the purity law, passed in 1516 that ensures the beer’s quality.
Music is also a big part of Oktoberfest with every pavilion hosting musicians (even a brass band if you’re lucky!) that bang out their own version of traditional German Oompah music with gusto! This means that dancing is also a popular pastime with everyone doing their own versions of traditional German dance moves. So now we know that it involves beer and dancing – what about Oktoberfest food?
Indulge yourself in the tastes of Oktoberfest food
No celebration would be complete without some serious food and the Germans are not backward in this department. They love their beer and they love their food! So what do you need for an authentic Oktoberfest celebration?
You need lots of wonderful German food. Specifically, you need spit-roasted whole chickens, roasted until their skin is golden brown and crispy, and lots of juicy pork. A classic German dish called Schweinebraten is made with a variety of different pork cuts, roasted in dark beer and onions, served with gravy, potato dumplings, and sauerkraut.
Roasted ham hocks are also another popular dish, as well as pork knuckles, grilled fish on a stick, pretzels and the fabulous Wurstl sausages. These sausages are a killer at Oktoberfest and are often served with sauerkraut and plenty of mustard.
How many people wear costumes for Oktoberfest?
Whether you are flying off to Munich for the festivities or heading off to your local celebrations, just about everyone wears some sort of traditional costume. In Munich, more than 90% of people wear a traditional German costume to Oktoberfest and over 75% of these will wear a real authentic outfit.
So what’s a girl to wear to Oktoberfest?
Ladies usually wear the traditional peasant Dirndl dresses, which is similar to a pinafore dress with a white blouse that has puffy sleeves, and an apron that is tied with a bow. The décolletage is a very important part of this outfit and can be emphasised by wearing a corset bra and highlighting the shape of the bodice – which is usually tight!
Men tend to wear a German Lederhosen, which is a pair of leather shorts with braces, short-sleeved checkered shirt, long socks and an Alpine hat with a feather. Traditionally, women wore their Dirndl dresses and men wore the Lederhosen, but lately, some women have found that men’s costumes are also lots of fun, particularly the Lederhosen. Women can now be seen wearing Lederhosen, topped with their own tight-fitting white blouses, and they certainly look better on the ladies!
How to host your own Oktoberfest party
First of all, you need real authentic German beer, so look for Bitburger, Pilsner, Helles, Starkbier, Ayinger, Warsteiner, St. Pauli Girl, Dinkelacker, Weihenstephan or Pinkus, but there are lots more available in Australia if you do a quick online search. Then you need lots and lots of pretzels and oodles of Bratwurst style sausages, mustard and sauerkraut. If you want to go all out, you can include a plate of German cheeses, whole grain bread, different mustards and pickles.
An example menu might include Ham wrapped figs, pork tenderloin with sweet mustard and creamy sauerkraut, finished with a lovely creamy sweet vanilla bean custard or strudel. You could also put together sauerkraut soup, schnitzels, sausages, pickled red cabbage, and dark chocolate fudge brownies.
Décor and decorations need to be cobalt blue and white (the official colours of Bavaria), which is easily achieved by buying napkins, tablecloths and balloons in these colours. You shouldn’t have any problem finding blue and white party supplies online. If your budget can be stretched far enough, you really need an accordion player or Oompah band, but if all else fails, download some good ‘old German Oompah music and play it over your media centre.
Don’t forget that everyone needs to be encouraged to wear traditional Bavarian costumes, which used to mean that men wore the German Lederhosen and women wore Dirndl dresses, but so long as everyone comes dressed appropriately – who cares what anyone wears!
If you have run out of ideas for your Oktoberfest party or Oktoberfest costumes, you can find plenty of inspiration for a men’s Oktoberfest outfit, as well as Dirndl dresses and Lederhosen for women on Costume Box – check it out today and don’t miss out!