The term Oktoberfest is really only used by tourists, locals call the 16-day drink fest “Weisn,” which refers to the area in which it’s held.
It wasn’t originally a beer festival, but the anniversary celebration of the wedding between Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig and his wife, Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen, who got married in 1810. For 5 days after their marriage a public festival was held in front of one of the gates leading to Munich. Up until 1938, the main event for the festival was horse racing.
The beer served must meet a certain standard. First, it must be brewed in Munich, and it must be AT LEAST 6% alcohol by volume. There are only 6 breweries that meet these requirements.
Drinking at the celebration can only commence when the mayor of Munich (also the master of ceremonies) cracks open the first barrel of beer, and proclaims “O’ zapft is!” (It’s tapped!).
One of the reasons the drinking became such a big part of the tradition is because Southern Bavaria was once notorious for its awful fresh water supply. To avoid cholera, the plague and other death sentences, locals would opt for the alcoholic alternative. So, their local cheer “Zum Wohl!” which means “to your health!” holds more meaning that we thought.
Paris Hilton is permanently banned from Oktoberfest. In 2006 she showed up and tried to promote a brand of canned wine. However, she had not arranged any of this with the Oktoberfest organizers. After a hefty dose of drunken outrage, she was banished from ever returning.
Drinkers as young as the age of 14 can attend if they are accompanied by an adult.
The lost and found department of the festival is stuffed to the brim. In 2013 the inventory included 1056 passports, 520 wallets, 320 mobile phones, 300 bags and 50 cameras. Some more strange finds were a set of false teeth, a tombstone shaped like a pencil, and a Segway.
Approximately $1.2 billion is raked in annually. Makes sense though, we’ve all seen our drunken bar tabs.
Despite the 6.5 million visitors who attend, there are only 980 toilets available. In 2004, the lines got so bad they had to be police regulated.
Because there are so many people, the toilets are the only quiet place to make a phone call. Because of this, there are signs saying it is illegal to use your phone while relieving yourself.
Because of the high alcohol content and sugar in the beer, passing out is a common activity. It’s so common that there’s a name for it amongst the locals: “Bierleichen”, or “beer corpses.”
The legendary festival has been canceled a total of 24 times due to war, cholera and inflation.
To commemorate the 100 year anniversary of Oktoberfest in 1910, the biggest tent to ever exist for the celebration was erected, which held 12,000 people.
The jug you drink out of is called a Maß, and it holds exactly 1 liter of beer. It’s also a $60 fine if you get caught stealing it.