It’s an event that’s been held, yearly, over the last two centuries. The first took place in 1810. That’s two hundred years ago and some change.
Oktoberfest stands as the world’s largest festival, with more than six million in attendance in its home court of Germany. Spanning 16 days from late September to the first weekend of October, the fair traces its roots to the nuptial celebrations for the Crown Prince Ludwig, later King Ludwig I of Bavaria, and Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen, after whom the festival grounds in Munich are named.
Though no one bothers with the history, Oktoberfest stands to date as a massive celebration of drinking and Bavarian culture, adapted in many countries across the world. Though local replications and reinterpretations exist (albeit on a more modest scale), you can opt for your own version of the festivities on home turf, with some of these basic requirements.
Firstly, set up a large tent outdoors. Open air is the essence of every festival. Put out a few rough, wooden picnic tables under the tent. Use tablecloths in the typical Bavarian pattern of checkered white and light blue diamonds. Hang a string of Christmas lights overhead.
There’s a ton of Bavarian food that should expand your culinary skills. Sausages and pretzels are the go-to menu items. There’s sauerkraut, potato salad, schnitzel, black forest cake, apple strudel, Hendl or whole chicken, dumplings, ox tail – and a whole lot more. If cooking’s not in your arsenal, look to a German restaurant or a caterer that can provide for the rich, tasty, carb- and meat-heavy Bavarian standards.
The crown jewel of the whole affair: beer. Though authentic Oktoberfest beer is brewed exclusively in Munich, beer companies duke out their own versions and put them out during the season. There’s also standard German brands that’ll do just as good in a pinch. Serve them in “steins” as is the tradition, or in large, glass mugs, more common and yet still in line with the Bavarian setup.
Have fun with it. Encourage your guests to come in the standard Oktoberfest garb: the barmaid dress (called dirndl) for women; a pair of leather breeches (called lederhosen) paired with suspenders and knee-high socks for men.
If a live band might prove too much, opt for a playlist with polka music, as is typical in the festivities.