When the leaves start changing and the weather gets cooler, the first thing many think of is autumn. But for others, the first thought might be beer, possibly some bratwurst, and maybe a soft pretzel or three... Where are we going with this? Oktoberfest!

A time-honored and treasured German tradition, Oktoberfest has been celebrated since 1810. While it wasn't always known as the Oktoberfest we partake in today, it's still a folk festival that's celebrated for up to 18 days in Munich and it has managed to make its way around the world, all the way to the US. Various breweries and towns with a German history - such as Stowe, Vermont, where the Von Trapp Lodge is located - many don't know what Oktoberfest actually means. It's estimated that nearly six million people travel to the official Oktoberfest in Munich each year and while everything has been canceled or postponed for 2020, there are still ways to partake in one of the most exciting events of the German calendar year.

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The meaning behind Oktoberfest, and how to hold a celebration at home, are pretty simple.

What Are We Actually Celebrating?

The main theme behind Oktoberfest is the celebration of Bavarian history which, of course, includes beer (and a lot of yummy German foods). The festival has since gone worldwide with other countries participating in the festival in their own ways as well. Interestingly enough, though, the tradition actually had a more serious origin as a wedding celebration. When the Bavarian Prince Ludwig married Princess Therese, of Saxony-Hildburghausen, it became a national event. The wedding took place in October, but Oktoberfest is known for starting in September and not ending until midway through October, which is quite a stretch from the original several-day festival.

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In 1810, the festival was celebrated in the simplest way possible in Bavaria, with days of drinking, plenty of good food, and horse races. Today, it's celebrated with much of the same plus parades and parties, all of which are accompanied by Bavaria's best brews. Also associated with Oktoberfest are the traditional outfits adorned by Munich, which include lederhosen, and this is a custom that has also been adopted in many parts of the world. Traditional Bavarian music is also wildly popular, with many celebrations featuring live bands who pay tribute to the culture of Germany. One prominent part of the celebration is, of course, the use of beer tents; in Munich, there are what are referred to as the 'original six,' according to Time magazine, which still serves beer during the celebration today.

How To Celebrate The Most Traditional Parts Of Oktoberfest

Oktoberfest should always begin with the food, which pays homage to the original traditions of the festival. Sausages and sauerkraut are customary and can range in anything from bratwurst to knockwurst and anything in between, all of which are delicious. Poached in beer, grilled for flavor, and served alongside some spicy, dijon, or even honey mustard, these sausages are a true German staple.

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Wiener schnitzel is also a great addition and while it takes a bit more work, it's well worth it for this deliciously tender meat dish. All of these can be served with some simple mashed potatoes, cucumber and tomato salad, or even braised red cabbage. Rolls and/or soft pretzels are additional options, often served with beer cheese.

Up next is the beer which is arguably the most authentic - and traditional - aspect of the festival. Of course, the beers should all be German styles and can usually be found between September and October from smaller or craft breweries. This is a great chance to try local beers as well as celebrate them, and most have a seasonal Oktoberfest option. Others, such as gose, helles, witbier, dunkels, and berliner weisse, are all great options - a little research goes a long way! Some would even argue that German beers are the best styles, and who are we to argue with perfection?

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Lastly, partaking in traditional Bavarian music is totally optional, but a lot of fun. It might take some getting used to in terms of sound and rhythm but many would be surprised to know that it's not all horns and bass. Much of Germany's music has changed throughout the decades, and even centuries, and it's fun to peruse and see which style suits a person's ears the best. To take things a step further and truly embrace the Bavarian culture, splurge on an authentic outfit! There's nothing like dancing to Bavarian music while hanging onto your lederhosen.

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