[Jakarta, LTTW] As the mayor of Munich shout o zapft is! (the keg is tapped) in front of the enthusiastic crowd, Oktoberfest was therefore started with a mighty cheer. After a period of time, some may think that the essence of the famed Bavarian festival is to drink loads of beer into oblivion.
If we look into the past, Oktoberfest did not start as a beer-drinking event. The festival can be traced to a wedding celebration taking place on 12th October 1810. It was a glorious day when Crown Prince Ludwig was married to Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen, thus making him King Ludwig I of Munich. The field where the royal event was held was renamed into Theresienwiese —which the locals simplified as wiesn or meadow.
Today, Bavarians celebrate the day with festivity. But it may be a surprise to some that the first Oktoberfest didn’t involve any beer at all. Yes, you read it right, no beer at all. Instead, the celebration was enlivened with horse races and a feast to honor the royal family, which marked the end of the festival on 17th October.
A year later in 1811, the horse race remained in the event because of the success that it brought, making it the first tradition that was repeated for years to come. An additional show called Agricultural Show was held to encourage the Bavarian agriculture and economy. Both shows were the core of this largest volkfest or folk festival in Germany.
The beer-drinking culture itself started in 1818, about 18 years after the first festival when beer pub owners participated by bringing in beverages. Since then, the original setting of the festival had ostensibly changed and made their way to become a mass drinking event. In 1938, the horse race was removed but it reportedly came to an end in 1960. Beer had beaten other traditions and become the superior symbol of Oktoberfest in the modern era.
Nowadays, Oktoberfest in Munich lasts for 15 days, starting from the end of September to compromise with the weather. It is filled with food and beverages, attractions, entertainment, and of course, the Bavarian heritage that can be seen in plain sight.
Beer of course is important as the beverage that represent the culture of Bavaria, but that doesn’t mean we could downplay Oktoberfest to just some beer-drinking festival. Oktoberfest should be a celebration of a nation, showcasing the proud Bavarian culture to the world that has lasted against the hourglass of time.
And for the world, Oktoberfest could and should become a symbol to celebrate life.