Home sweet home… Even though Oktoberfest is now celebrated the world over, its origins lie in Munich, capital city of the German state of Bavaria. Munich’s Oktoberfest celebration, also called Wiesn in German (Wiese = meadow), is said to be the largest fair in the world. Every year it attracts around six million visitors to the city.
Whether you celebrate in Munich, Qingdao or Las Vegas, we’ve got you covered. Read on to discover essential tips, fun facts and helpful vocab for this legendary celebration of all things beer.
The opening of the first keg – and therefore the start of the festival – is likely to begin with the traditional Bavarian exclamation “O’zapft is!” (“It’s tapped!”)
The traditional Bierzelt
This “beer tent” isn’t the kind of thing you’d take camping: Munich’s largest seats up to 10,000 people! Once you find your tent and a space inside it, you’d be well advised to stay put: just as there’s no Oktoberfest without a Bierzelt, there’s no ordering beer without a seat.
“A Maß, please!”
You can’t just stock up on cans of beer at your local supermarket and call it Oktoberfest. Beer is brewed specially for the occasion and served in one-liter mugs known as Maßkrug or Maß for short. Along with the typical German toast “Prost!”, you’re likely to hear people clinking glasses with the Bavarian “Oans, zwoa, g’suffa!” – “One, two, drink up!”.
Real Brezn and other Bavarian specialties
Good beer deserves good food (and you’ll thank yourself in the morning). Be sure to sample the hearty Bavarian dishes on offer: Brezn (Pretzels), Obazda (a Bavarian cheese delicacy typically eaten with Brezn), Hendl (Austro-Bavarian for “roast chicken”) and Haxn (roasted ham hock) are all delicious.
A Lebkuchenherz is a gingerbread shaped like a heart. It’s traditionally decorated with icing sugar and inscribed with messages like “Ich liebe dich” (“I love you”), “Schatzi” (“sweetie”) or love notes of a… less romantic nature. You’ve been warned.
A Dirndl is a traditional dress for women that’s popular among female Oktoberfest visitors. They’re often very flattering, but before you take that as an invitation to flirt, have a closer look. If she’s tied her ribbon on the right side, she’s spoken for. If it’s on the left, viel Spass – she’s single!
and the Lederhose
Gents, if you really want to get into the spirit of Oktoberfest, you need to leave the sneakers, jeans and baseball caps back home. You’ll fit in much better wearing Lederhose – traditional leather pants. To complete the look, add a Charivari (a kind of chain), Loferl (calf-warmers) and Haferl-Schuhe (traditional shoes).
Today there are approximately 3,000 Oktoberfests around the world. From the US and Canada, to Brazil, Australia, Russia and Japan, you’re bound to find a convenient location. Perhaps surprisingly, one of the biggest is in Qingdao, China. Celebrations there attract around 3 million visitors each year.