Some of you will propably say: “Why do you write an article about that? Everyone knows that!”. But the Munich Greeters meet guests sometimes who ask us “What kind of festival is this?”. Therefore the Greeters want to explain again the Oktoberfest (“Wiesn”)…
The first Oktoberfest was a wedding feast. The wedding of King Ludwig I (crownprince at that time) and his wife Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen. At that time a horse race was organised on a meadow outside of the city gates. Since then the Oktoberfest grounds are called “Theresienwiese” (Therese’s meadow). Apparently the festival was a really great thing. So they decided to repeat the festival in the next year and the next year and so on. This was the beginning of the tradition “Oktoberfest”
The Term “Wiesn”
As mentioned the grounds where the festival takes place are called “Theresienwiese”. Because bavarians are somehow taciturn and the term “Oktoberfest” or “Thereseienwiese” is too long for them, they created a short form which is used until today. And you can distinguish citizens from tourists with this expression. Munich citizens or bavarians would never call the festival “Oktoberfest”. They always call it “die Wiesn”.[Special for english readers: it is very common that the noun marker “das” (= the “neuter”) is often considered right for most of the german words, because it sounds “so german” ;-). “Wiesn” is feminine, so the right noun marker is “die” (= the “femininum”)]
Nearly all german terms related to the Oktoberfest can be combined with the word “Wiesn”, just like Wiesnumzug (= Wiesn-parade), Wiesnzelt (=Wiesn-tent), Wiesn-Bier (= Wiesn-beer), Wiesn-Brezn (= Wiesn-pretzel), Wiesn-Hendl (= Wiesn-chicken, roasted), etc. but also anglicisms work great: Wiesn-Outfit, Wiesn-Trend, After-Wiesn-Party… 🙂
Why in September? Isn’t it called Oktoberfest?
Originally the Oktoberfest took place in october. But soon it became clear that in october it can get very cold in Munich. On the other hand in late september the summer has often a last comeback. Therefore the festival is held in the end of september. But from tme to time there can be an onset of winter on Oktoberfest. The last time we had this was in 2002. On September 24 th 2002 we had snowy showers during Oktoberfest.
Why is it also called beerfest?
it is not called beerfest! The term “beerfest” was created by tourists who did not know a thing about the tradition and origins of the Oktoberfest. They just described what they saw. And they saw that a lot of beer is consumed at Oktoberfest. But the Oktoberfest is not a festival to honour the beer or the breweries nor it is a festival only for beer-drinking, even it seems like that. Therefore: don’t use this term…Neither do we call Thanksgiving “Turkey-feast” :-).
I have more questions…
There are hundreds of questions about the Oktoberfest. Last year the Munich Greeters already wrote an article about that:
Munich Greeter Article- Oktoberfest – FAQ