Aug 23, 2013

Posted by in Bavaria, Oktoberfest | Comments Off on The Oktoberfest in September?

The Oktoberfest in September?

The Oktoberfest in September?

Okay, so here’s one for all of you Trivial Pursuit lovers out there: why does more than half of the Oktoberfest take place in September?

If you asked a random clueless person that, they might scratch their heads and say “because Oktober is German for September?” or “because they keep getting the dates wrong?” A more plausible explanation might be that it’s a festival in celebration of October, not one celebrated in October, and that it is held to catch the beginning of the month. All of which, however, would be wrong.

The original Oktoberfest of 1810 was held on 17th October and was not a kind of harvest festival or a celebration of the month of October, but a big wedding party for the King of Bavaria. It was repeated year after year around the 17th and generally lasted for a few days, and it wasn’t until the second half of the nineteenth century that it was clear that the Oktoberfest was a tradition that was both popular and here to stay – and only then was it considered necessary to lengthen it.


Even in late September, Oktoberfest weather is not always as sunny and warm as it should be…

The idea of bringing the Oktoberfest forward, however, is almost as old as the festival itself. In 1828, on its eighteenth birthday, the people who had taken over running the Oktoberfest from the Bavarian royals applied to hold it in September after the 1827 Oktoberfest had been so rainy that drinkers had wrinkly swimmers’ fingers! Back then, however, the Theresienwiese on which it is held was still farmland and the application was refused because it would not yet have been harvested.

Year after year, Oktoberfest goers watched as Indian summer after Indian summer slipped past in September, only for the festival to begin as the first autumn storms appeared on the horizon: until, in 1874, enough was enough. By then, Munich had grown around the Theresienwiese, which was no longer under cultivation, and the city council agreed that the Oktoberfest should start during the fine September weather – known in Bavarian German as the Altweibersommer. In 1904, the whole thing was made official, with rules created stating that the Oktoberfest should begin on the first Saturday following the 15th September and end on the first Sunday in October: little has changed to this day.

So really, the Oktoberfest is a Septemberfest, a not-Oktober-fest, or – if you will – a Notoberfest!

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