To the outside world, it’s a time when German’s (and a fair few overseas visitors) drink a lot of beer in a two week period. To those in the know, it’s a festival steeped in tradition with some still present religious and historical aspects.
But, mostly, it’s still about beer.
Yes, the last two weeks of September can only mean one thing, Oktoberfest.
Heartbroken that we can’t be in Munich for the event, we’ve compiled a little fact-file just in case you were curious or wanted to host your own Oktoberfest style parties in the coming days.
Oktoberfest actually occurs in the 16 days leading up to and including the first Sunday in October. If that day happens to be October 1 or 2 then the festival concludes on October 3, German Unity Day.
Oktoberfest traces its roots back 1810, when the residents of Munich were invited to join in the fun at the wedding of Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese. On that occasion, the celebrations actually did occur in October and was held on a site called 'Theresienwiese' literally meaning, 'Therese's fields.' The festival is still held there today, which is why locals simply call it 'Wiesn.'
Up to 7 million people attend Oktoberfest each year.
In 2009 that dropped due to a terrorist scare, but that didn't stop records being smashed. That year's crowd wolfed down a record amount of beer, consuming 6.5 million litres of beer. Some paid the price as 800 ended up in hospital with alcohol poisoning.
The festival begins with a parade through town as festival workers follow horse-drawn floats and Bavarian bands.
The festival is officially opened when the Mayor of Munich taps the first keg of beer, serving the first beverage of Oktoberfest to Bavaria's minister president.
The festival is opened and closed with gunfire.
During the opening ceremony a traditional 12-gun salute occurs before the tapping of the first keg. On the last day of the festival, there's a traditional gun salute on the steps of the Bavarian monument.
The first Sunday of the festival sees the traditional Costume and Riflemen's parade as a celebration of the festival's opening.
Over 7,000 participants take to the street accompanied by musicians and farm-yard animals, mainly horses and oxen.
There's no denying that Oktoberfest is mostly about the beer. But it's not just a drunken free-for-all (well, supposedly not), there's actually some tradition and structure to the drinking.
To start with the beer all come from six Bavarian breweries: Spaten, Augustiner, Paulaner, Hacker-Pschorr, Hofbräu, and Löwenbräu. So don't order Bud Light. Then, all the beer is served in tankards referred to as 'mass' each holding a liter of beer.
There is some bad news though...
I know, it's not good.
For the first time in 2011, beer prices will exceed €9 per liter. Last year's most expensive beer cost €8.90, this year it will cost €9.20. Not a huge increase, but it's still received some complaints.
Though the price of maintaining a beer tent at the festival has gone up, attendees complain that the breweries already make enough profit during Oktoberfest and a price hike isn't needed.
However, any animosity will probably be gone after a few litres of beer.
This year's festival will have 14 tents to choose from.
The use of tents dates back to 1896 when they replaced beer stands at the celebration.
The tents can get pretty crowded and it's a good idea to get there early. Why? The Germans' reputation for being ruthlessly efficient isn't for nothing, so dallying during the day may lead to being denied entry to your favourite tent as they get totally crammed.
That may not be a bad thing, since each one offers something a little different...
Since 1895 the festival has witnessed its own annual crossbow competition. Nowadays, the Armbrustschützen tent plays host to the sharp-shooting while also providing beer, food and brass bands in the vein of everything good about Oktoberfest.
Brass bands are synonymous with Oktoberfest, though some tents choose to go for something else such as a rock and roll or yodelling group.
Budding musicians can apply to perform at the festival since each tent's entertainment is selected by individual proprietors and not by the overarching organisers of the event.
There's also a weather permitting open air concert on the second Sunday of the festival.
Just so that everyone feels at home, the event's organisers provide an online dictionary for visitors allowing them to communicate easily with local.
If you're in a good mood, why not try aufstöin (to donate a beer) to a local to say thank you for the wonderful time you're having. Make sure it's not a blembe (bad beer) or you may be accused of being a graddla (bum).
In 2010 the organisers of the festival held a 'historic' Oktoberfest in celebration of the festivals 200th anniversary.
It was such a success that the old-fashioned festivities will make a comeback this year.
Old rides, older (style) beer and traditional music will all be present, but going back in time will cost you an extra fee.
Not surprisingly, there are thousands of copycat festivals and Oktoberfest-themed parties that occur all around the world during the last two weeks of September.
If you're planning one this year, why not project the festival's live web stream on a wall. It'll be almost like the real thing, except with less people. And worse beer.
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