O’zapft is! is a Bavarian phrase you will hear on Friday, 2nd October, when we start opening our bottles for beer tasting as part of our Oktoberfest at Language Hub. In standard German you would say ‘es ist angezapft’ (it is tapped); ‘es’ being a beer barrel. It is a phrase reserved for the mayor of Munich every September to mark the opening of the first beer barrel and the commencement of the drinking at the Oktoberfest. Come and join the fun consisting of mixing sodas, listening (and maybe dancing) to Bavarian music, snacking and having German conversation.

You live and learn. As a German you grow up knowing that there is this festival in Munich in autumn called ‘Oktoberfest’, which is all about beer. You also know that the Bavarians and the German media make a big fuss of it, showing off the indigenous culture through colourful parades of Bavarians in a variety of Lederhosen and Dirndls, dancing to traditional brass music, eating dubious sounding dishes and drinking beer from humongous glass containers in vibrantly decorated tents with long wooden tables and benches.

The origins of the world’s largest folk festival, however, have long faded into the background, so let’s shed some light on the matter.

Once upon a time there lived a princess called Therese Charlotte Luise of Saxony-Hildburghausen. In 1809, she was on the list of possible brides for Napoleon, but a year later on October 12, 1810, she got married to crown prince Ludwig of Bavaria. In honour of the wedding, the citizens of Munich were invited to ‘eat, drink and be merry, and enjoy parades involving kettle drums and music, shooting displays and a horse race around a meadow on the edge of town’ for five full days. The festival ground, which had been chosen due to its hill being suitable to serve as a grandstand for thousands of race spectators, was then named Theresienwiese (‘Therese’s meadow’). Before the horse race started, there was a performance of children dressed in Bavarian costumes and around the king’s tent tastings of wine and beer took place.

Apparently everyone had such a good time that the horse races were repeated in the following year. In 1819 it was decided that Oktoberfest be made an annual event that was later lengthened and pushed forward in time because September provides for longer and warmer days. Yet the horse race only continued until 1960.

And today? This year, the Oktoberfest is held for the 182nd time. Over the past decade it has attracted an average of six million visitors a year, who between them consumed almost seven million litres of beer in tents that can hold up to 10,000 people. Visitors may also enjoy amusement rides and sidestalls with games as well as a variety of traditional food. Some adjustments had to be made in the past years to preserve the traditional beer-tent atmosphere but numerous similar events around the world confirm its ongoing success.

Oktoberfest vocabulary

If you’ve decided to join us on Friday or just booked a plane ticket to Munich, have a look at the most essential Oktoberfest vocabulary:

Brezn a giant pretzel

bsuffa – drunk

des bassd scho – that’s alright

Dirndl a Bavarian dress with full skirt, apron and tight bodice

Gaudi – fun

Hendl – a roast chicken

host mi? – do you understand?

Maß – a 1-litre mug

Obatzda – a spread of soft cheese, butter, paprika powder and other herbs

pack ma’s – let’s go

pfiat di Gott – bye

(Sau-) Preiß –expression for all Germans who don’t speak Bavarian

Radla – a mix of beer and lemonade

Reiberdatschi – potato pancakes

Schmarrn – nonsense

Steckerlfisch – a grilled fish on a stick

Schweinshaxe – grilled ham hock

Wiesn – Theresienwiese (‘Therese’s meadow’) in Munich