It’s mid August. Summer is fading and the autumn is approaching rapidly. Then it happens. Someone freaks out over seeing an Oktoberfest on tap. “ALREADY?!?!?!?!”
Yes. Already. You remind them that Oktoberfest starts next month. “October is not next month.” Uh, yeah. But Oktoberfest starts in September. “Wat?”
Oktoberfest ENDS in October. However, the festival didn’t always occur when it does now. To get into what’s going on here, we have to go back…
Time For Some History
Alright, so if you want a detailed (and more accurate) history of Oktoberfest, you can get that over at Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oktoberfest#History), this is more of an FYI with details. So about 200 years or so ago some royal people got married and decided to have a big shindig over in Bavaria. Which is currently in Germany but… you know what, it doesn’t matter.
Regardless, they threw a party. A full week of hanging out and having a generally good time. The next year rolls around and they decide “Hey, remember that bitchin party we threw? We have to have an anniversary party, right?”
So they did.
The next year rolled around and they decided that it was a Good Thing so why not do it every year? So they did. And except for a few years here and there where there were wars and stuff (cholera epidemics/economic depressions) going on, they’ve held it every year.
So, funny thing, it took them until 1818, eight whole years in, that they added food booths. This also brought beer. So yeah, Oktoberfest had absolutely nothing to do with beer at the beginning.
The original date of the start of Oktoberfest was October 12, 1810. Horse races were scheduled for the 17th and marked the end of the event. Five days, that’s nice. And it’s actually fully in October. So what gives?
Apparently in Munich, things start to get chilly in October and the weather starts to change and become a bit more unpredictable. So event organizers decided, well, if it ENDS in October, that still counts, right? Right. To be honest, it seems that when the change occurred is something best left to historians, as through hours and hours of Google-Fu, I could only come up with vague answers of ‘sometime in the past’. (As an aside, I’m looking forward to the “Oh you should have just asked me.” or “Only took me a single search to find the answer.” responses. Bring it.)
There Are Rules, Mein Herr
So when does Oktoberfest start? Well, it depends. Here are the scheduling rules.
- Starts on a Saturday
- At least 16 days long.
- It will end on October 3rd (German Unity Day) or the First Sunday in October, whichever is longer.
- This means that if October 3rd is on a Monday, the festival is 17 days long instead of 16.
So if you’re going to go, plan accordingly. However, if you’re just going to hang out and spout some barstool wisdom, keep this in mind while you enjoy some Oktoberfest beer, preferably while listening to Ein Prosit, followed by Grab Your Balls, We’re Going Bowling.