How to host an Oktoberfest party

Sep 22, 2008 at 2:40 a.m. ET

Celebrated at the end of September each year in Germany, Oktoberfest attracts millions of people from around the world. If you can't make it to Munich this year, you can celebrate with your own Oktoberfest party at home, complete with traditional German food, beer, music and more.

Oktoberfest - Good times, good times


Oktoberfest in Munich

2008 marks Munich's 175th Oktoberfest beer festival. The celebration, which takes place from September 22nd to October 7th this year, is a 16-day festival which attracts over 6 million visitors from around the world to the southern Germany city.

Originally, Oktoberfest, which is known as "die Wiesn" in Germany, was a wedding celebration. In October 1810, Prince Ludwig of Bavaria (who was later King Ludwig I) celebrated his marriage with Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen with a public party that included a horse race, along with lots of beer and food. The party became an annual event, carnival booths and tents were added, and soon Oktoberfest became a world-renown festival. Since 1810, the festival has been canceled on 24 occasions due to war time or other issues. The horse races took place each year through 1960.

Oktoberfest - Ferris wheelToday, Oktoberfest takes place on nearly 100 acres in the Theresienwiese meadow in Munich. Oktoberfest features up to 30 tents, each with its specialty serving a particular food, beer or type of entertainment. The smaller tents offer seating for 100 to 500 people, while some of the larger tents (normally sponsored by the major beer companies) have seats for over 8,000 inside and even more outside.

The events kick off each year with the mayor ceremoniously tapping a keg of beer. The festivities include beer, food, music, dance, carnival rides and more.

Though Oktoberfest in Munich is the original and biggest of the Oktoberfest celebrations, people hold similar festivals around the world. You can even host an Oktoberfest party of your own at home by following these simple tips and preparing these fabulous German recipes.

Plan the party outdoors

Enjoy the early fall weather with an outdoor party. You can choose to decorate in the colors of the German flag - black, red and gold, or instead the official colors of state of Bavaria - cobalt blue and white. You can set up a large tent like they do in Bavaria or just cover picnic tables with colorful table linens.

Play German music

Buy a CD of traditional German music, including polka tunes. For a bigger party, hand out kazoos, hire folk dancers or zither players.

German beer

Wear Bavarian costumes

Traditional attire for Oktoberbest includes lederhosen, which are leather shorts with suspenders, for the men and the dirndl, a dress with a gathered waist, for the women. An apron is usually worn with the dress. You can improvise with clothes you already own or go all out and rent a costume from your neighborhood costume shop.

Serve German beer

In Munich, a big part of the celebration is about the beer. Oktoberfest beer is a type called Märzen, which is stronger and darker than your traditional beers. At Oktoberfest in Munich, several breweries are permitted to serve their special Oktoberfest brews during the festival. For your Oktoberfest party, buy bottles or kegs of German beer and serve it in glass steins.

Prepare authentic Oktoberfest food

German sausage (bratwurst), sweet and sour cabbage, sauerkraut, hot potato salad and crusty bread make up a traditional meal. For munchies, serve hot soft pretzels with mustard, and for dessert consider black forest cake or apple strudel.

Other foods served at Oktoberfest include Hendl (whole chickens), Steckerlfisch (fish-on-a-stick), Kaiserschmarrn (pancakes with raisins), dumplings, potato soup, ox tails and other Bavarian specialties.

On the next page, find recipes for a traditional German Oktoberfest meal!

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