King Ludwig I married Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen on October 12, 1810. The citizens of Munich were invited to attend the festivities held on the fields in front of the city gates to celebrate the royal event. The fields were named Theresienwiese in honor of the Crown Princess, and have kept that name ever since, although the locals have since abbreviated the name simply to the “Wiesn”. Horse races, in the tradition of the 15th-century Scharlachrennen (Scarlet Race at Karlstor), were held on October 18 to honor the newlyweds. In 1811. the decision to repeat the horse races, spectacle, and celebrations launched what is now the annual Oktoberfest tradition.
To keep the Oktoberfest, and especially the beer tents, amicable for the elderly and families, the concept of the “quiet Oktoberfest” was developed in 2005. Until 6:00 pm, the orchestras in the tents only play quiet brass music, for example traditional folk music. Only after that may Schlager pop or electric music be played, which had led to excess violence in earlier years. The music played in the afternoon is limited to 85 Decibels. With these rules, the organisers of the Oktoberfest were able to curb the tumultuous party mentality and preserve the traditional beer-tent atmosphere.
In 2005 the last travelling enterprise amusement ride of Germany, called the Mondlift, returned to the Oktoberfest.
Starting in 2008, a new Bavarian law was passed to ban smoking in all enclosed spaces open to the public. Because of problems enforcing the anti-smoking law in the big tents, an exception was granted to the Oktoberfest in 2008, although the sale of tobacco was not allowed. After heavy losses in the 2008 local elections, with the smoking ban being a big issue in political debates, the state’s ruling party implemented general exemptions to beer tents and small pubs.
Gingerbread hearts from Oktoberfest
The change in regulations was aimed in particular to benefit the large tents of the Oktoberfest: So, smoking in the tents is still legal, but the tents usually have non-smoking areas. The sale of tobacco in the tents is now legal, but is widely boycotted by mutual agreement. However, in early 2010, a referendum held in Bavaria as a result of a popular initiative re-instituted the original, strict, smoking ban of 2008; thus, no beer will be sold to people caught smoking in the tents.
The blanket smoking ban did not take effect until 2011, but all tents instituted the smoking ban in 2010 to do a “dry run” to identify any unforeseeable issues.
The year 2010 marked the 200th anniversary of the Oktoberfest. For the anniversary, a horse race in historical costumes was held on opening day. A so-called historische Wiesn (historical Oktoberfest) took place, starting one day earlier than usual on the southern part of the festival grounds. A specially brewed beer (solely available at the tents of the historical Oktoberfest), horse races, and a museum tent gave visitors an impression of how the event felt two centuries ago.
In 2013, 6.4 million people visited Oktoberfest, and visitors were served 6.7 million litres of beer.
A waitress with Hacker-Pschorr, one of the traditional beers allowed to be served at Oktoberfest. She wears a dirndl, a traditional women’s dress of Bavaria.
Only beer conforming to the Reinheitsgebot, and brewed within the city limits of Munich, can be served at the Munich Oktoberfest.
Beers meeting these criteria are designated Oktoberfest Beer.
The breweries that can produce Oktoberfest beer under the aforementioned criteria are:
In recent years, the Oktoberfest runs for 16 days with the last day being the first Sunday in October. However, if day 16 falls before October 3rd, then the festival will continue until the 3rd.