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Each and every year, millions of people from all over the world book plane tickets, buy lederhosen and prepare their livers for one of the biggest and most impressive celebrations in the world. The festival, known as Oktoberfest, takes place in Munich, the capital city of Bavaria and the third largest city in all of Germany.

The festival runs for two weeks every year, beginning on the third Saturday of September and is held the festival on the Theresienwiese, the fairgrounds which are historically connected to the royal wedding that started the entire tradition.

On Oct. 12, 1810, Crown Prince Ludwig was married to Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen. The royal wedding festivities were held on the fields located next to the city gates, which were subsequently renamed “Therese’s fields”, or Theresienwise, in honour of the bride. Amongst the wedding celebrations, the festival featured horse racing for the royal family and symbolized an event celebrated by the whole of Bavaria.

The following year it was decided that the horse racing festival be repeated and additionally feature an agricultural show designed to boost Bavarian agriculture. By 1818, small beer stands and a carousel were added, slowly turning Oktoberfest into a festival celebrating the popular Bavarian lifestyle.

The festival has since turned into a sensory overload of colorful carnival activities, massive beer tents booming with traditional Bavarian music and endless quantities of traditional Bavarian wear and fare. Today, Oktoberfest is the largest festival in the world, with an international attendance averaging around 6 million people per year. The festival grounds are home to over 14 impressively large beer tents, each distinctive in their attracted demographic and beer selection – housing a total seating capacity of over 100,000 people, normally all at once.

This year marked the 200th anniversary of Oktoberfest, and the sights around the city of Munich were incomparable. Inhabitants dressed up in the traditional Bavarian costume known as a “tracht”, which include lederhosen for the males and dirndls for the females. Citizens and tourists both sport the traditional clothing, causing one to feel as though they have gone back in time.

The traditional food and drink include a variety of things, specifically the weisswurst, or white sausage, and the standard mass of beer that are served in one litre mugs. The mugs are sold in every beer tent, averaging at around nine euro (or approximately $12 Canadian) per serving. This didn’t stop the consumption of over 6,600,600 litres of beer in 2009. However, if one decides to forego their beloved seat in a beer tent for a few moments, it is always possible to find a three to five euro meal at one of the many traditional food stalls within the fairgrounds.

As Munich is too far for most Laurier students, the largest Bavarian festival in North America happens to be right nextdoor. Running from Oct. 8-16,
The Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest was founded in 1969, based on the Bavarian tradition, to celebrate the local Canadian-German heritage. The event features over 40 family and cultural events, supporting the local economy and over 70 local charities.

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