Fall festivals brought joy to a period full of privation.
Will the Oktoberfest 2020 take place?” At the moment, there is no question that we’re asked more frequently. Since 1949, 70 Oktoberfests were held in a row, but the COVID-19-crisis might end this longest series in the history of the fest in 2020. In fact, the Wiesn lived through multiple uncertain times in the past. Therefore, we’d like to look back a hundred years.
Historically speaking, a cancellation of the Oktoberfest didn’t always mean that there was no Volksfest at all at the Theresienwiese. In the 20th century, there were even five Oktoberfest replacements to be held when the circumstances didn’t allow a real Oktoberfest to take place, but also made it impossible for Munich’s souls to simply abstain from the joy of a Volksfest. Probably, the organizers are also thinking of such a scenario for 2020.
The first festival without a royal family
Due to the outbreak of World War I, Munich had to abstain from its beloved festival for the first time in the 20th century. From 1914 to 1918, five Oktoberfests fell victim to the war - as well as Bavaria’s Monarchy. On November 7th, 1918, the November Revolution began with a rally at the Theresienwiese and led to the escape of King Ludwig III the same day, which meant the end of the Kingdom of Bavaria.
Until then, the participation of the royal family was an integral part of the Oktoberfest’s history as the festival itself was from its beginning in 1810 designed to help create a national Bavarian identity and honor the king. However, the Bavarian shooting clubs didn’t think long about whether a Volksfest necessarily needed a king or not and therefore organized a “Herbstfest” at the Theresienwiese.
It’s not hard to imagine why the organization of an actual Oktoberfest was impossible at the time. Not even the most basic supplies were guaranteed shortly after the war. Hence, no chicken or even oxen could be sold at this Herbstfest and the small beer that was offered didn’t cause a wave of excitement either.
For lack of electricity, the festival had to close at 6:30 pm each day. Only the impressive riflemen parade with about 4000 participants created a ray of hope that better times will follow.
1920 again brought major changes
This was already true for the next year. In 1920, real beer (Vollbier) found its way back into the beer mugs and the fall festival would even be called “small Oktoberfest”. To make sure that real Oktoberfests could take place soon, an association to support the Oktoberfest was founded.
1920 also brought significant changes to the layout of the Oktoberfest that we still see today. As the king’s tent wasn’t needed anymore, the surrounding ring of tents, formerly the center of the festivities, was almost completely dissolved. The tents of the breweries Bürgerbräu, Franziskanerbräu, Löwenbräu, Thomasbräu, Wagnerbräu, and Weißes Bräuhaus were integrated into the Wirtsbudenstraße and its sideroads. One year later, 1921 finally rang in a roaring decade with a new, enthusiastically celebrated Oktoberfest.
Do you like to read about the history of the Oktoberfest? We would love to read your comments.