Glories of the West: Oktoberfest in Bavaria!

Trachten- und Schützenzug (Folk-costume and Riflemen) parade in Munich, Bavaria, 2016.

Oktoberfest began on the 22nd of this month (September). Although originally specific to Bavaria, it has become associated with all things German – at least in American minds! – and is celebrated pretty much worldwide, wherever people live who claim German blood. But Bavaria (Bayern), and Munich (München) in particular, remains the epicenter.

Originally held on the 12th of October, 1810, to celebrate the marriage of Crown Prince Ludwig of Bavaria, later to become King Ludwig I, to Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen, it was enjoyed so much that it became an annual event. Before long, it was moved to September, to take advantage of the longer and warmer days, but it kept the name it had picked up: Oktoberfest.

Although the Royal horse-races that were the original highlight of the event are no longer held, and the once-annual agricultural fair is held only every three years, Oktoberfest is still more than just its “beer and boobs” reputation (not that there’s necessarily anything wrong with either…).

The parade of folk-costumes shown in the above clip – held on the first Sunday of Oktoberfest – originated in 1835, and became an “official” and regular part of the celebration in 1950. Since then, it has been expanded to include crossbowmen in medieval clothing, riflemen, folk dancers, flag-throwers, bands, carriages and floats, horses, and even goats, cows and oxen.

Tracht (plural Trachten), or folk-costumes, are the traditional or “national” costume of the region; descending from the working clothes of country folk, they are now proper attire for such festivals as Oktoberfest, and a few other festivals such as the late-summer Viehscheid (cattle drive) that celebrates the ceremonial return of the cattle (and their herders) from the mountain pastures, where they have spent the summer fattening up on the lush Alpine meadows, to the lowland towns where they will spend the winter.

Learn all you need to know (and then some!) about the wearing of this traditional attire at the “Great Big Guide to Bavarian Clothing.” Just be sure to click on the buttons near the bottom, to continue on to the next page. As this site notes,

“In recent years, traditional Bavarian clothing has had something of a revival and is now more popular than ever… It’s not just at the world-famous Wiesn [the “field” or “meadow” on which the Munich Oktoberfest is held] that lederhosen and dirndls are worn… Many towns and villages have local festivals at which locals don traditional outfits, as do they for special occasions such as Christmas or weddings.”

John F. Dausch notes that

“In 1887 the tradition began of opening Oktoberfest with a procession through town of the proprietors and brewers to the fair grounds on the Theresienwiese, (“Queen Theresa’s Meadow”), or Wiesn, for short. A young lady portraying the Münchener Kindl (the child monk, Munich’s symbol) leads off, followed by the mayor’s open carriage, after which, riding in flower-bedecked wagons, the proprietors, brewers, servers, concession workers, and kegs and kegs and kegs of beer.”

Here is a video of this parade of brewers and breweries (note – 35 minutes):

Beer is not sold, however, until the Mayor of Munich has tapped the first keg:

This year, he succeeded with only two blows of the mallet! John Dausch notes,

“In 1950, Munich’s mayor Thomas Wimmer introduced the tradition of officially tapping the first Oktoberfest beer barrel exactly at 12:00 o’clock on the first day of the fair, and then announcing loudly, ‘O’zapft is!’ – Bavarian dialect for ‘It’s tapped!’ From the Schottenhamel tent, where this ceremony occurs, word goes out to a team which fires a cannon twelve times, only after which beer is served at Oktoberfest.”

This year, Oktoberfest runs from September 22nd – October 7th, 2018. Some day, I hope to be able to attend!

Author: The Anglophilic Anglican

I am an ordained Anglican clergyman, published writer, former op-ed columnist, and experienced outdoor and informal educator. I am also a traditionalist: religiously, philosophically, politically, and socially. I seek to do my bit to promote and restore the Good, the True, and the Beautiful, in a world which has too-often lost touch with all three, and to help re-weave the connections between God, Nature, and humankind which our techno-industrial civilization has strained and broken.

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