History of Oktoberfest: Why is it in September?

Bill Petro
3 min readSep 17, 2022

Why is the famous German beer festival held in September if it’s called Oktoberfest? Officially, the beer festival starts the third Saturday in September through early October for 16 to 18 days.

And it’s back this year; Oktoberfest 2020 and 2021 were canceled due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

Let’s look back at Oktoberfest’s origin.

Oktoberfest History

The first Oktoberfest was held in 1810 to celebrate the royal wedding in Munich — the capital of the old kingdom of Bavaria — between Ludwig, the Bavarian Crown Prince, and Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen, princess of Saxe-Altenburg. The celebration began on October 12 and lasted until October 17. In subsequent years the festivities were repeated, lengthened, and moved to September when the weather was better.

The festivities were originally held for the citizens on the fields in front to the gates of the city. The fields were renamed Theresienwiese for the princess but are often abbreviated to simply die Wiesn. Over the years the celebration grew to become a celebration of Bavarian agriculture, culture, and food.

Bier Tent

Current Oktoberfest

It’s been going on for over two centuries and has only been interrupted 24 times previously by cholera epidemics and wars. The Coronavirus lockdowns of 2020 and 2021 marked the 25th and 26th interruptions. Typically over six million people visit Munich each year and come to one of the 16 beer tents, which hold about 119,000 people total at a time. There’s even an app for the event.

Recently 7.7 million liters of beer were served. If you were to lay down all the beer drinkers in Munich end-to-end, they’d sleep better afterward. All over the world, where there are German immigrants, Oktoberfest is celebrated. Large celebrations routinely occur in Canada, Brazil, Cincinnati, and even Denver, where we see half a million gather in the Mile High City.

This is not the only beer festival in Germany, or even in Munich. The Munichers have a local one which I’ve written about…

Bill Petro

Writer, technologist, historian. Former Silicon Valley tech exec. Author of fascinating articles on history, tech, pop culture, & travel. https://billpetro.com