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The Oktoberfest is a two-week festival held each year in Munich, Bavaria, Germany during late September and early October. It is one of the most famous events in the city and the world's largest fair, with some six million people attending every year.
The event traditionally takes place during the 16 days up to and including the first Sunday in October. The schedule was changed following German reunification in 1990 so that if the first Sunday in October falls on the 1st or 2nd, then the festival will go on until October 3rd (German Unity Day). Thus, the festival is now 17 days when the 1st Sunday is October 2nd and 18 days when it is October 1st. The festival is held on an area named the Theresienwiese (Field [or meadow] of Therese), often called "d’ Wiesn" for short. Beer plays a central role in the fair, with every festival beginning with a keg of beer tapped by the Mayor of Munich who declares "O'zapft is!" (Bavarian: "It’s tapped!"). A special Oktoberfest beer is brewed for the occasion, which is slightly darker and stronger, in both taste and alcohol. It is served in a one-liter-tankard called Maß. The first mass is served to the Bavarian Prime Minister. Only local Munich breweries are allowed to serve this beer in a Bierzelt, a beer tent which is large enough for thousands. Note: the words 'stein' and 'lager' do not mean what many English speakers think they do so instead use 'Mass' or 'Helles' respectively
Visitors also consume large quantities of food, most of it traditional hearty fare such as sausage, hendl (chicken), käsespätzle (cheese noodles), and sauerkraut, along with such Bavarian delicacies as roast ox tails.
Other cities across the world also hold Oktoberfest celebrations, modeled after the Munich event.
The first "Oktoberfest" took place on October 12, 1810: For the commemoration of their marriage, Crown Prince Ludwig (later King Ludwig I) and Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen (namesake of the Theresienwiese festival grounds) organized a great horse race (the marriage took place on October 12, the horse race on October 17, therefore there are different dates named as being the first Oktoberfest).
In the year 1813, the Oktoberfest was called off as Bavaria was involved in the Napoleonic War. In 1816, carnival booths appeared. The main prizes were silver, porcelain, and jewelry. In 1819, The town fathers of Munich took over festival management. They decided that the Oktoberfest should be celebrated every year without exception. Later, it was lengthened and the date pushed forward. The reason being that the end of September in Bavaria often has very good weather. The high temperature in the first week of Oktoberfest nears 30 °C which stimulates the thirst of the visitors. However, today the last week of Oktoberfest is still in October.
To honor the marriage of King Ludwig I and Therese of Bavaria, a parade took place for the first time in 1835. Since 1850, this has become a yearly event and an important component of the Oktoberfest. 8,000 people — mostly from Bavaria — in traditional costumes walk from Maximilian Street, through the center of Munich, to the Oktoberfest. The march is led by the Münchner Kindl.
Since 1850, the statue of Bavaria has watched the Oktoberfest. This worldly Bavarian patron was first sketched by Leo von Klenze in a classic style and Ludwig Michael Schwanthaler romanticised and "Germanised" the draft; it was constructed by Johann Baptist Stiglmaier and Ferdinand von Miller.
In 1853, the Bavarian Ruhmeshalle was finished.
In 1854, 3,000 residents of Munich succumbed to an epidemic of cholera, so the festival was cancelled. Also, in the year 1866, there was no Oktoberfest as Bavaria fought in the Austro-Prussian War. In 1870, the Franco Prussian War was the reason for cancellation of the festival. In 1873, the festival was once more cancelled due to a cholera epidemic. In 1880, the electric light illuminated over 400 booths and tents. In 1881, booths selling bratwursts opened. Beer was first served in glass mugs in 1892. At the end of the 19th century, a re-organization took place. Until then, there were games of skittles, large dance floors, and trees for climbing in the beer booths. They wanted more room for guests and musicians. The booths became beer halls.
In 1887, the Entry of the Oktoberfest Staff and Breweries took place for the first time. This event showcases the splendidly decorated horse teams of the breweries and the bands that play in the festival tents. This event always takes place on the first Saturday of the Oktoberfest and symbolises the official prelude to the Oktoberfest celebration
In the year 1910, Oktoberfest celebrated its 100th birthday. 120,000 litres of beer were poured. In 1913, the Bräurosl was founded, which was the largest Oktoberfest beer tent of all time, with room for about 12,000 guests (today, the biggest tent is the Hofbräu-Festhalle, which holds 10,000).
From 1914 through 1918, World War I prevented the celebration of Oktoberfest. In 1919 and 1920, the two years after the war, Munich celebrated only an "Autumn Fest." In 1923 and 1924, the Oktoberfest was not held due to inflation.
In 1933, the Bavarian white and blue flag was replaced with the standard swastika flag. From 1939 to 1945, due to World War II, no Oktoberfest took place. From 1946 to 1948, after the war, Munich once again celebrated only the "Autumn Fest." The sale of proper Oktoberfest beer was not permitted; the guests had to make do with beer that had an alcohol content under 2%. Since its beginnings the Oktoberfest has thus been canceled 24 times due to war, disease and other emergencies.
In 1980 a pipe bomb was set off in a dustbin at the showers at the main entrance on September 26, 1980 at 10:19 PM. The bomb consisted of an empty fire extinguisher filled with 1.39 kilograms of TNT and mortar shells. Thirteen people were killed, over 200 were injured, 68 seriously. This was the deadliest terrorist attack in the history of Germany after the Munich Massacre. The official inquiries found that a right-wing extremist Gundolf Köhler from Donaueschingen, a social outcast who didn't get away in time and killed himself in the explosion, was the lone perpetrator. However, this account is disputed strongly by various groups.
Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest is an annual nine-day festival in the twin cities of Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. Based on the original German Oktoberfest, it is billed as Canada's Great Bavarian Festival, and is the largest Oktoberfest celebration outside Bavaria. It is held every October, starting on the Friday before Canadian Thanksgiving and running until the Saturday after. It attracts over 700,000 visitors annually.
While its best-known draws are the beer-based celebrations, other cultural and entertainment attractions also fill the week. The most well-known is the parade held on Thanksgiving Day; as the only major parade on Canadian Thanksgiving, it is televised nationally.
The twin cities and surrounding area have a long history of German roots; Kitchener was formerly named Berlin. A large portion of the population identify themselves as being of German heritage, and many still speak German well. A common phrase at the celebrations is Gemütlichkeit, German for congeniality, or warm friendliness. This word is even programmed into the bus route displays, so during Oktoberfest it will show the route and Gemütlichkeit, or Willkommen.
The festival's mascot is Onkel Hans, a rotund man in Bavarian dress with a thick moustache, lederhosen, and a traditional felt hat with tassel. His graphical image shows him holding a beer stein in one hand, and a sausage (in a roll) in the other. A lesser-known icon is his counterpart Tante Frieda, a similarly stout woman wearing a dirndl.
Another icon of the festival is Miss Oktoberfest. This position was formerly selected in a televised beauty pageant, the applicant coming from across North America. The position is now selected by a closed committee of judges from a panel of local applicants; community involvement and personal character form the main criteria under the new system.