20 Things You Didn't Know About Oktoberfest

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20 Things You Didn't Know About Oktoberfest (Slideshow)

The start of Oktoberfest is right around the corner; use these 20 fascinating facts to prepare yourself for the festival
20 Things You Didn't Know About Oktoberfest

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Oktoberfest Isn’t in October

Oktoberfest Isn’t in October

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Oktoberfest did begin in October (Oktober in Germany), but it didn’t stay there. The 16-day festival moved to September as the popularity of the celebration grew, since it begins to get quite cold in Bavaria in October. It typically begins around Sept. 20 (Sept. 17 this year) and ends during the first weekend of October.

If the weather allows it, here are some tips for throwing a backyard biergarten Oktoberfest party.

A Bavarian Thing

A Bavarian Thing

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People often think that Oktoberfest is a custom celebrated by and honoring the entirety of Germany. Though people all over the country generally celebrate the holiday, it really is a reflection of uniquely Bavarian culture, music, and food.

Click here to find out how a Bavarian butcher turned white sausage into green sausage. (And no, he didn’t just let it get moldy.)

A Matrimonial Day

The 16-day festival began Oct. 12, 1812, as a celebration of the marriage of Crown Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen. The citizens of Munich were invited to join in, and over the years it evolved into the festival it is today.

Click here for some easy décor ideas for your autumn wedding.

A Non-Alcoholic Event

A Non-Alcoholic Event

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Believe it or not, Oktoberfest wasn’t always a beer fest. In the early days of the festival (which included an agricultural show and other amusements), beer was only sold and enjoyed outside of the venue. Beer did become popular at the event relatively early on, however, since at the time, beer was safer to drink than water!

Click here for 10 health benefits of beer.

And They’re Off!

And They’re Off!

What better way to end a celebration than with a horse race? Well, at least that’s how the early Oktoberfests did it. The tradition died out around 1938, but the festival is still held in the Theresienwiese field (named after the princess) on the outskirts of Munich, where the original horse races took place.

It may be intended for the Kentucky Derby, but you should still try your hand at baking “that horse race pie.”

Canceled?

Canceled?

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Despite being a steady, long-running tradition, Oktoberfest has been shut down 24 times in the past. The reasons have varied but include both World Wars, two cholera epidemics (1854 and 1873), and the Franco-Prussian war in 1870.

Click here to see why plans for a London pop-up restaurant were unexpectedly canceled.

Food, Food, and More Food

Food, Food, and More Food

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With all the drinking, folks sometimes forget about all the great food offered at Oktoberfest.

Click here for 5 German sausages that put hot dogs to shame.

You were probably already familiar with the aforementioned brezn (pretzels) and wurstl (sausages), but additional dishes include hendl (roast chicken), schweinsbraten (roast pork), haxn (pork knuckle), steckerlfisch (grilled fish on a stick), knodeln (potato or bread dumplings), kaasspotzn (cheese noddles), reiberdatschi (potato pancakes), sauerkraut or rotkraut (pickled red cabbage), weisswurst (white sausage), and obatzda (a fatty, spiced cheese-butter dish).

Hours of Operation

Hours of Operation

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Believe it or not, Oktoberfest isn’t a 24/7 party — at least not officially. The tents close between 11:30 p.m. and midnight local time. Don’t fret and think you won’t have enough time to drink, however, as the event begins each day between 9 and 10 a.m.

McDonald’s is currently testing out a “walk-thru” for drunk, car-less customers.

It’s All About the Love

It’s All About the Love

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During the fest, "lebkuchen" hearts, or gingerbread hearts, are hanging everywhere. These large iced cookies are inscribed with proclamations of love for your sweetheart, or schatz.

A German footballer was recently suspended for his love of Nutella. Click here for the story.

Keg Tapping!

Keg Tapping!

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Each year in Munich since 1950, the first keg has always been tapped by the mayor, who then declares, "O’zapft is!" ("It's tapped!"). No one is allowed to drink until this and the official gun salute happens. Customarily, the first mug is offered to the minister-president of the State of Bavaria.

Click here to find out which airline will be the first to sell draft beer aboard its planes. (Spoiler: It’s not a German company.)

Paris Hilton Has a Lifetime Ban

Paris Hilton Has a Lifetime Ban

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Remember before the Kardashians, when Paris Hilton was the most annoying pseudo-celebrity? (Good times. Can we go back?) What you might not remember, is that Hilton received a ban from Oktoberfest in 2006. She showed up that year dressed in a traditional dirndl dress and braids as part of an advertising campaign for canned wine, which patrons and organizers believe cheapened the festival. Don’t worry; she has since also been banned from two Las Vegas hot spots and the entire country of Japan.

Click here for 10 foods Americans eat that are banned around the world.

People Lose Their S**t

People Lose Their S**t

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No, we’re not talking about drunken patrons going insane, but people who literally lose their belongings at the festival. Each year, about 5,000 items turn up at the event’s lost and found department. This includes everything from cell phones, keys, wallets, and passports to wedding rings, glasses, wheelchairs, crutches, baby carriages, and even the actual kids. (There’s a lost and found children office on the premises as well.) It seems there’s always at least one pair of false teeth that turn up every year, too.

Click here for nine foods that stain your teeth (real or false).

Red Cross, Represent

Red Cross, Represent

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The Red Cross has a presence at Oktoberfest every year, treating those who overdrink with fluids and beds. The organization also stocks extra pairs of pants for the event. This may seem like a kooky idea… until you unexpectedly need a pair yourself.

Did you know Carvel’s Free Ice Cream Day helps the Red Cross? Click here for details.

Tents A-Plenty

Tents A-Plenty

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The 14 tents that cover the Theresienwiese are actually beer halls (or drink halls, as one sells wine), each one full of its own history and good times. The largest tent, known as Hofbräu-Festzelt, has 6,000 seats inside, 3,000 outside, and 1,000 standing tables.

Click here to see the ridiculous reason a teenager was forced by her parents to live in a tent.

The Almighty Mugs

The Almighty Mugs

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Let’s take a moment and rattle off a few facts about the iconic mugs used during Oktoberfest. First, they weren’t always made of glass. Prior to 1892, the steins were made of stone or metal. The glass versions are still quite heavy, weighing about 5 pounds each when full. German Oliver Struempfel holds the Guinness World Record for most beer steins carried more than 40 meters by a man, hauling a staggering 24 to achieve the title earlier this year. For women, the record stands at 19, which was set by fellow German Anita Schwarz in 2008.

Click here for 15 absolutely insane Guinness food records.

These iconic brew vessels are so coveted that security guards need to monitor attendees for theft as they leave. Each year, between 100,000 and 250,000 are successfully recovered.

The Beer

The Beer

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When beer was finally allowed to be served and enjoyed at the festival, a lager or Märzenbier made by Munich breweries became the beverage of choice for the festival. It was served in the signature “Maß” glass mug, which holds up to 1 liter (almost 40 ounces) of beer. Today, Oktoberfest dictates that all the drafts served must originate from one of Munich's six main breweries: Augustiner, Hofbräu Münchner, Hacker-Pschorr, Paulaner, Löwenbräu, or Spaten-Franziskaner.

Click here to read about a beer truck spill that stopped traffic on the Autobahn and made everyone really, really sad.

The Beer Corpses

The Beer Corpses

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Every year, people overestimate their drinking capabilities. This results in the Theresienwiese being littered with what the Germans call “bierleichen” or “beer corpses” — folks who have passed out from drinking too heavily. 

Click here to learn about what actually happens to your body when you black out.

The Rules

The Rules

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The aforementioned name Märzen comes from the German word for the month of March, März. The beer was called this because a Bavarian ordinance from 1553 decreed that beer may only be brewed between Sept. 29 and April 23 each year, so special recipes had to be used in March that would allow the beer to last through the summer and, once the annual festival was conceived, through Oktoberfest.

Congress wants to standardize expiration dates to reduce food waste. Click here for the story.

Where the Beer Flows Like… Beer

Where the Beer Flows Like… Beer

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Care to wager a guess how many gallons of beer are consumed every year at Oktoberfest? 500,000? 1,000,000? Try 1.8 million gallons. Split among 6 million people, that equates to a bit less than one-third of a gallon (or about 38.4 ounces) per person. That might not seem like a lot, until you consider the fact that some attendees may only drink a beer or two… or possibly none at all. Meaning other some folks will consume much more than that 38-ounce figure. (We should also point out that Germany is notorious for reportedly underreporting its Oktoberfest beer consumption.)

Click here for 10 countries that drink much less beer — because it’s illegal!

You Don’t Need to Be Einstein to Work There

You Don’t Need to Be Einstein to Work There

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You don’t need to be Albert Einstein to work at Oktoberfest, however, Einstein did work there once. Way back in 1896, at the age of 17, little Al worked as an electrician and helped set up one of the beer tents.

If loud chewing drives you crazy, you might be a genius like Einstein. Click here for the story.