Oktoberfest: Misconceptions, Fun Facts, Food, Music, Fashion & More!

Story by Jeanette Wages | "A German Girl Living In An Alexandria World"



Moving from Germany was a bit of a culture shock for this girl, going from Heidelberg, Germany to Seattle, Washington and now Alexandria, Virginia; all extremely different places. One of the things that has shocked me the most—beyond the extreme amounts of delicious seafood and my birthday (which falls on Tag der Deutschen Einheit or German Day of Unity) no longer being a holiday—is Oktoberfest, or Wies’n if you’re a Bayern (Bavarian) native, and the notions that go along with it.

Misconception No. 1

Oktoberfest is in October. Actually, Oktoberfest ends on the first Sunday in October, which—for this 16-day festival—means it traditionally begins in September.



Misconception No. 2

Oktoberfest is “like, um, a German Independence Day Drinking Fest”... Quite the opposite. The festival originated on October 12, 1810, in celebration of the marriage of the crown prince of Bavaria, who later became King Louis I, to Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen. They invited the entire country out to celebrate. Lawn games and horse races were all a part of the celebration, but no alcohol was served. Everyone had so much fun they decided to continue the party each year as a celebration of life and prosperity. We have all just been having a killer anniversary party for people we never met for 210 years. I don’t know about you, but my marriage lasted three years and I’ve been celebrating my divorce for over ten, but hey a party is a party, right?


Fun Fact No. 1

This year was only the 25th time in history that the festival was canceled. Other reasons the festival has been canceled include wars and the plague.


Misconception No. 3:

Oktoberfest beer. Yes, Fest Bier is real. No, we don’t call it Oktoberfest bier, how silly would that be? Can I have a 4th of July Bier? No, it’s a Bud Lite. Märzen or Märzenbier (German: March or March beer, respectively) is a lager that originated in Bavaria. It has a medium to full body and may vary in color from pale through amber to dark brown. In the USA, it tends towards the lighter side when labeled Oktoberfest.


Bier Facts

There are only six breweries allowed to have tents in München (Munich) for Oktoberfest proper: Augustiner, Hacker-Pschorr, Hofbräu, Löwenbräu, Paulaner, and Spaten. This doesn’t mean Germans don’t love all our local breweries, but to be in this festival they must be brewed in Munich. Also, according to the original Bavarian Purity Law in 1516, there are only 3 ingredients used in the brewing process: water, barley and hops. The importance of yeast was not known at the time and was added later to the current purity requirements.


Fun Fact No. 2

While people line up as early as 8:00 in the morning to get the best spots in the tents, Oktoberfest cannot officially begin until the mayor taps the first keg. This typically takes place at noon on the first Saturday of the festival. “O’zapft is!” and the fun begins!


Fun Food Fact

Vegetarians, please skip this fact. I always see a ton of pretzels and brats eaten at American Oktoberfest, which are delicious. But there is so much more to Oktoberfest cuisine and you would be surprised to learn that more Hendl (roast chicken) is sold than Brats. 510,000+ whole roast chickens eaten, plus 60,000 sausages and 59,000 pork knuckles. You can also enjoy delicious Kartoffelpuffer (potato pancakes), Käsespätzle (German Cheese Noodles), and grilled fish on a stick. To drink like a German, you have to eat like a German.


Fun Fact No. 3

In 1908, at 17 years old, Albert Einstein worked the festival with his uncle’s electrical company, screwing in light bulbs in the tents.

Fest Fashion Fact

Surprising to most tourists, Oktoberfest is still very much a local event with about 85% of attendees being from Bayern, or at least Germany. This makes it less surprising to see people wearing traditional Bavarian outfits to the fest. Most commonly, lederhosen for the men and occasional women and dirndl for the ladies. Dirndl comes in three pieces with a blouse, skirt and apron. The placement of your dirndl bow is very important, as it tells people your relationship status: Left side if you’re single (ledig). Right side if you’re taken (vergeben) or married (verheiratet). In the middle if you are either a child (kindl) or a virgin (jungfrau). On your back if you are either a waitress or widowed (verwitwet). Men often wear traditional Alpine hats made of wool with either a feather or tufts of hair from goats or wild boar, as well as souvenir pewter pins. Traditionally, the bigger the feather or tuft of hair on your hat, the wealthier you are, as it is a sign of high standing.



Music Fact

I know everyone thinks Polka music when it comes to Oktoberfest, however German Oompah is what is actually played (and yes, there is a difference). Polka relies heavily on the accordion and has its roots in Czech and Poland, while German Oompah is a brass band. You will hear a lot of traditional German drinking songs with covers mixed in. People swaying along and raising their glasses to “Ein Prosit.” The Chicken Dance, on the other hand, is Swiss. When you hear it, please don’t blame us!”



German Ein Prosit Lyrics


Ein Prosit, Ein Prosit, der gemütlichkeit

Ein Prosit, Ein Prosit, der gemütlichkeit

(Cheer!) Eins, zwei, Drei g'suffa!

Zicke, zacke, zicke, zacke, hoi, hoi, hoi,

Zicke, zacke, zicke, zacke, hoi, hoi, hoi,

Prosit


English Ein Prosit Lyrics (Translation): "A Toast"

A toast, a toast! To cheer and good times! A toast, a toast!

To cheer and good times. ONE! TWO! THREE! DRINK UP!




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