Oktoberfest 2012 Kicks Off: Top 10 Facts You Need to Know

Lederhosen. Buxom girls. Big mugs of beer.

It’s that time again — Munich’s mayor tapped the first keg and kicked off the 16-day Oktoberfest in Germany, just in time for more than two weeks of all the beer, oompah music and dancing one person can stand.

Yes, it’s the greatest time of year! On Saturday, Munich Mayor Christian Ude tapped the first keg with two blows of a hammer, opening the 179th Oktoberfest to the cheering of thousands. And over the next 16 days, more than six million guests from all around the world will come to Munich’s tents to drink to life, fun — and yes to beer.

Of course, you don’t have to go to Munich to enjoy Oktoberfest — but that’s where it began. But beyond lots of beer drinking, what do you know about it?

1. The First Oktoberfest Was a Wedding Party
Oktoberfest, Germany, beer, Oktoberfest 2012
A little over 200 years ago, Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig celebrated his wedding with a big public bash that became an annual event.

2. The Waitresses Do Look Buxom
Oktoberfest, Germany, beer, Oktoberfest 2012
The core remains the same for Oktoberfest — how can you not have those waitresses in their tight “Dirndl” costumes delivering steins?

3. Oktoberfest Wasn’t Always This Big
Oktoberfest, Germany, beer, Oktoberfest 2012
The first Oktoberfest was just the small local wedding party, complete with small beer gardens. Now it’s a major international event with about a dozen impossibly large beer tents, some that can seat about 10,000 singing, beer-drinking revelers at one time.

4. It’s Not Just Beer
Oktoberfest, Germany, beer, Oktoberfest 2012
When you’re drinking big mugs of beer, you’ve got to eat. Last year, revelers in Munich put down 500,000 chickens, 120 oxen and thousands of big pretzels to soak up the beer. And that’s not mentioning all the other delicious German foods.

5. People Are Well Behaved — As Much As They Can Be
Oktoberfest, Germany, beer, Oktoberfest 2012
The Oktoberfest in Munich is held at the local fairgrounds and spread out over 75 acres. It accommodates hundreds of thousands of revelers at once, and security is tight — but German police say there’s no real threat. People are obviously there to have fun.

6. People Start Drinking Early
Oktoberfest, Germany, beer, Oktoberfest 2012
The tents fill up by midday, and if it doesn’t rain, there’s plenty of room at the outdoor beer gardens.

7. It’s Not Cheap to Drink in Munich
Oktoberfest, Germany, beer, Oktoberfest 2012
You’d think that since the beer is flowing, it would be cheap. But even thought the mugs are big in Munich, if you want to celebrate Oktoberfest there, you better pack some money in your lederhosen. This year a mug, or “Mass” in German, of the pale beer made only by Munich’s breweries for Oktoberfest sells at up to $12.50 a mug.

8. Don’t Forget Your Hairy Hat
Oktoberfest, Germany, beer, Oktoberfest 2012
Traditional visitors wear Bavarian hats, or Tirolerhüte. And the more tufts of goat hair your hat has, the wealthier you are. Of course, the tufts now are synthetic, so if they get soaked in beer you smell like a wet goat. Well, not as much, anyway.

9. Oktoberfest Beer Isn’t For the Weak
Oktoberfest, Germany, beer, Oktoberfest 2012
Oktoberfest beer is brewed with 0.6 to 1.1% more alcohol and sugar than the average German beer, making it even easier to get drunker just a bit faster.

10. You Don’t Have to Go to Germany — But You Should, Once
Oktoberfest, Germany, beer, Oktoberfest 2012

Most American communities have an Oktoberfest celebration of one sort or another. However, the festivals in the United States, unusually, aren’t so much centered on beer — and they certainly don’t last a whole 16 days.

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