Why Oktoberfest is celebrated in September, and what to drink for the occasion
Oktoberfest ends rather than starts in October
The first Oktoberfest of the season happening during Labor Day weekend might seem odd, but September is the standard time to take part in the misnomer of a celebration. Similar to how Fat Tuesday is the end of the carnival season in New Orleans, Oktoberfest ends – rather than starts – in October.
According to Encyclopedia Britannica, the festival originated Oct. 12, 1810, when Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig married Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen. The initial celebration lasted five days and included horse racing at the soon-to-be-named Theresienwiese, or “Theresa’s meadow.” Locally, the festival is sometimes referred to as d’Wiesn in honor of the fairgrounds.
The celebrations were repeated to mark the couple’s anniversary, and over the years the festival grew. Carousels and other carnival trappings appeared, and beer booths transformed into large beer halls complete with interior balconies and bandstands.
Eventually, it became a tradition for the mayor of Munich to tap the first keg to open the festival, and events started earlier and earlier in the fall so people could take advantage of the longer daylight in the evenings and warmer weather. The official 2019 celebration in Munich went from Sept. 21 to Oct. 6.
Another misnomer can be found in the brews at the various festivals. Though not regularly found now at the tents in Munich, which opt for paler beers, stateside celebrations highlight the amber-colored marzen, German for “March.” Why is a beer named after March served at a September event named after October, you ask? That’s when the beer was historically brewed to be ready in time for the older versions of Oktoberfest.
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Beaver Creek hosted Oktoberfest over the weekend, featuring bratwurst-eating and stein-hoisting competitions, live music from multiple bands and the opportunity to see who can pull off lederhosen the best. Next up, Vail Oktoberfest returns Sept. 10.
For more information, visit oktoberfestvail.com.
This article was updated by Vail Daily staff to include local event information.