50 epic photos from Oktoberfest prove it's one of the most misunderstood celebrations in the world

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Slide 1 of 51: The 185th Oktoberfest celebration starts September 22 and runs through October 7. The tradition started as an annual way to celebrate the marriage of Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen. The pair were married in 1810. Thousands of people gather at Theresienwiese every year to drink beer and honor traditional Bavarian culture.  When you think of Oktoberfest, you're probably thinking about three things: Germany, lederhosen, and beer. Whether you've actually been in Munich for the festivities or you've taken part elsewhere around the world, you know it's essentially  one giant party. It's also been commercialized over the years with lederhosen and dirndl Halloween costumes and Oktoberfest-inspired craft beers. But there's a whole lot more to the festive celebration than you might think. These epic photos will show you just what we're talking about.
Slide 2 of 51:  Source: Business Insider
Slide 3 of 51:  Source:  HISTORY
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Slide 7 of 51:  Source:  HISTORY
Slide 8 of 51:  Source:  TIME
Slide 9 of 51: From the beer to the costumes to the food, there are tons of traditions spread out across all aspects of the festival.
Slide 10 of 51:  Source:  Business Insider
Slide 11 of 51:  Source:  Business Insider
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Slide 14 of 51:  Source: USA Today
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Slide 16 of 51:  Source:  Business Insider
Slide 17 of 51: What says "family-friendly" more than a Costume and Rifleman's parade?
Slide 18 of 51:  Source:  Food&Wine
Slide 19 of 51:  Source:  Mike Siegel via Food&Wine
Slide 20 of 51:  Source:  Mike Siegel via Food&Wine
Slide 21 of 51:  Source:  Mike Siegel via Food&Wine
Slide 22 of 51:  Source:  Mike Siegel via Food&Wine
Slide 23 of 51:  Source:  Business Insider
Slide 24 of 51:  Source:  Mike Siegel via Food&Wine
Slide 25 of 51: Augustiner-Bräu...
Slide 26 of 51: ... Hacker-Pschorr...
Slide 27 of 51: ... Hofbräu München...
Slide 28 of 51: ... Löwenbräu...
Slide 29 of 51: ... Paulaner...
Slide 30 of 51: ... and Spaten-Franziskaner-Bräu.
Slide 31 of 51:  Source:  USA Today
Slide 32 of 51:  Source:  USA Today and The History of Oktoberfest
Slide 33 of 51:  Source: TIME
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Slide 35 of 51:  Source: InStyle
Slide 36 of 51:  Source:  Business Insider
Slide 37 of 51: That's a massive crowd, making it the largest beer festival in the world.
Slide 38 of 51:  Source:  Business Insider
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Slide 44 of 51: Yes, you'll even get to see the Alphorn blowers — they're the musicians who play those instruments you've seen in any Ricola commercial.
Slide 45 of 51:  Source:  Business Insider
Slide 46 of 51:  Source:  Business Insider
Slide 47 of 51:  Source: The History of Oktoberfest
Slide 48 of 51:  Source: The History of Oktoberfest
Slide 49 of 51: In being seen as just a giant day drink, Oktoberfest has become somewhat of a destination and meeting place for students studying abroad throughout Europe.
Slide 50 of 51: And when you’ve been tossing back liters of beer all day, it’s hard to take in the culture or learn about the history.
Slide 51 of 51: So next time you think about pulling on those lederhosen and sloshing a mass of brew with your friends — and a couple thousand strangers — be sure to make a toast to the happy couple, and the royal family that started it all. "Prost!"

When you think of Oktoberfest, you’re probably thinking about three things: Germany, lederhosen, and beer.

Whether you’ve actually been in Munich for the festivities or taken part elsewhere around the world, you know it’s essentially one giant party.

It’s also been commercialized over the years with lederhosen and dirndl Halloween costumes and Oktoberfest-inspired craft beers.

But there’s a whole lot more to the festive celebration than you might think. These epic photos will show you just what we’re talking about.

In 1810, Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig — he would later go on to become King Ludwig I of Bavaria — married Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen.

Source: Business Insider

The Bavarian royalty threw an epic wedding celebration on the fields in front of the city gates and invited the citizens of Munich to join them.

Source: History

Those who weren’t in Munich were celebrating the wedding all across Bavaria.

Source: History

The public fields were named Theresienwiese, or “Therese’s fields,” to honor the crown princess.

Source: History

And the wedding festivities ended with horse races.

Source: History

The royal family decided to repeat the celebration one year later, which sparked the annual tradition now dubbed Oktoberfest. This year will be the 185th celebration.

Source: History

There have only been a few times — during war, cholera epidemics, or hyperinflation — when the country skipped the celebrations.

Source: Time

From the beer to the costumes to the food, there are tons of traditions spread out across all aspects of the festival.

At the start of the festivities, more than 7,000 people join musicians and farm animals — predominantly horses and oxen — in the streets.

Source: Business Insider

If you’ve never been to Munich for the festival, you probably didn’t know there’s an opening ceremony.

Source: Business Insider

It’s complete with a parade of horse-drawn floats.

Source: Business Insider

You’ll also witness Bavarian bands playing traditional music.

Source: Business Insider

The festival doesn’t officially start, though, until the mayor of Munich taps the first keg of beer and yells “O’zapft is!” (“It’s tapped!”) He serves the first glass of Oktoberfest to Bavaria’s minister president.

Source: USA Today

Before the mayor taps the keg, there’s also a traditional 12-gun salute.

Source: Business Insider

And at the closing ceremony, there’s another salute on the steps of the Bavarian monument.

Source: Business Insider

What says “family-friendly” more than a Costume and Rifleman’s parade?

If you’re doing Oktoberfest right, you won’t just be drinking any old beer. And you can forget about ordering a Guinness.

Source: Food & Wine

In 1810, Dunkel — a dark lager — was the reigning beer of Munich.

Source: Mike Siegel via Food & Wine

But by the late 1800s, Oktoberfest revelers were introduced to a lighter beer, called Märzen or Märzenbier. These beers are more reddish in color and slightly sweet to taste, and they’re similar to the Oktoberfest beers we tend to brew stateside.

Source: Mike Siegel via Food & Wine

Throughout the years, the festival beer has grown lighter in color. Now, typical Oktoberfest beer has more of a golden hue.

Source: Mike Siegel via Food & Wine

Today’s Oktoberfest beers also have a higher alcohol content than they used to as a result of the brewing process.

Source: Mike Siegel via Food & Wine

The beer is served in a giant mug dubbed a “mass,” which is German for “measure.” Each mass holds up to 1 liter of beer.

Source: Business Insider

If you’re in Munich for the on-site celebration, you’ll find beers from only six local breweries:

Source: Mike Siegel via Food & Wine

Augustiner-Bräu …

… Hacker-Pschorr …

… Hofbräu München …

… Löwenbräu …

… Paulaner …

… and Spaten-Franziskaner-Bräu.

Each of these breweries sponsors a tented beer hall, for which you should probably make a reservation if you plan on attending. They set the model for all the local beer gardens you love to visit on Saturdays with your friends year-round.

Source: USA Today

These giant sponsored tents we know today replaced smaller stands in 1896, which were there so festival-goers could quench their thirst.

Source: USA Today and The History of Oktoberfest

While the beer tents are where you’d go to grab your drinks, they also play traditional Bavarian music.

Source: Time

You’d be hard-pressed to find someone dressed in anything other than lederhosen and dirndl at Oktoberfest. But these are more than just festival costumes.

Source: Time

Originally, and during the time of the wedding, dirndls were plain, worn exclusively by servant girls, and typically paired with a set of lederhosen.

Source: InStyle

It’s estimated that about 7 million people take part in Munich’s Oktoberfest each year.

Source: Business Insider

That’s a massive crowd, making it the largest beer festival in the world.

And a lot of people means a lot of beer consumption. On average, the crowd consumes about 7 million liters of it.

Source: Business Insider

But, contrary to popular belief, the festival isn’t just for drunk adults. Local families go with their kids and enjoy candy apples and schnitzel sandwiches. They ride roller coasters and take part in all the traditional festivities.

Source: Business Insider

It’s common for families to swing by the fair and enjoy a classic Bavarian lunch of obatzda and brezn (cheese dip and a pretzel). You may be more likely to find us hanging out there than by the beer tents, if we’re being honest.

Source: Business Insider

The crossbow competition you’ll find over at the Armbrustschützen tent has been going on since 1895.

Source: Business Insider

Music is an integral part of the festivities, too. Some tents even host yodeling groups.

Source: Business Insider

While others switch it up and showcase some rock and roll.

Source: Business Insider

Yes, you’ll even get to see the Alphorn blowers — they’re the musicians who play those instruments you’ve seen in any Ricola commercial.

If you’re feeling traditional, you can stop at one of many tents hosting the classic brass bands.

Source: Business Insider

Back in 2010, Oktoberfest celebrated its 200th anniversary. Organizers paid homage to the original festival with a festival called the “Historical Wiesn” that featured classic rides, horse races, and older-style beer.

Source: Business Insider

Remember the horse race we mentioned? Well, you won’t be able to see one of those at the festival today. But, if you plan it right, you’ll be able to catch the Agricultural Show.

Source: The History of Oktoberfest

The Agricultural Show was introduced to the festival in 1811 as a way to boost the Bavarian agriculture industry, and it now takes place every three years.

Source: The History of Oktoberfest

In being seen as just a giant day-drinking event, Oktoberfest has become somewhat of a destination and meeting place for students studying abroad throughout Europe.

And when you’ve been tossing back liters of beer all day, it’s hard to take in the culture or learn about the history.

So next time you think about pulling on those lederhosen and sloshing a mass of brew with your friends — and a couple of thousand strangers — be sure to make a toast to the happy couple and the royal family that started it all. Prost!

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