Why is Oktoberfest held in September?

Oktoberfest lasts for 16 days. It starts in late September and finishes on the first Sunday of October – unless the 1st Sunday is before 3rd October, in which case the festival is extended so that it lasts until German Unity Day. This prompted me to ask yesterday, “Why does a nation that generally follow the rules so strictly that they won’t even cross the road on a red man, even when there are no cars to be seen, celebrate Oktoberfest in September?” I decided to find out last night, so I’m sharing my findings, just in case anybody else wondered.

Well, for starters it did used to be held in October.  The first one was a celebration of the marriage of Prince Ludwig (who later became King Ludwig I) to Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen. The marriage took place on October 1810, and five days later the people of Munich were invited to festivities which were held on the fields outside one of the town gates.

That first year they had a parade and horse races. The horse races proved so popular that the people decided to repeat the event the following year, and so even though horse racing hasn’t been part of the festival for many years, we have them to thank for the event still being held today. In the second year they also had an agricultural show, by 1816 there were a few carnival stalls and by 1818 the beer stalls that the festival is now renowned for had been added.

But back to my original question. Why is it held in September? It seems the answer is “because the weather is better”! It doesn’t matter to the locals – they don’t even call it Oktoberfest. To them it’s known as Die Wies’n. The fields where the festival was first held were (and still are) called Theresienwiesen (Theresa’s Meadows) in honour of the princess. This name has been shortened locally to die wiesen or die wies’n, and if you don’t call your festival after a month I suppose it doesn’t matter when it is held.

While this story behind the festival is interesting, there is another theory about its origins which sounds equally plausible and you’ll find that here.

And there you have it: the story of Oktoberfest.

Related posts: Why is Tuesday 13th unlucky?   How do they celebrate Christmas in Germany

Getting to Know a New Class

Getting to know a new class is always hard with all those names to learn, but usually a class teacher has time on their side. Time to carry out various “getting-to-know-you” activities with a class they will be seeing every day. When your main role is as a PPA teacher you have only a couple of hours to learn the names of 30 children that you won’t see again for another week, so you need one activity that will fix those names firmly in your mind.

My way is to tell a story in French. This immediately holds the attention of the children: in many primary schools languages are not taught and so for children this is a real novelty; in some schools languages are taught, but even so children are likely to have learned only words and phrases, and so the idea of a whole story in a foreign language is still a novelty.
Before I begin I promise the children that they will understand the story, and with the help of props and plenty of actions, I tell the story of a hat that was so small it got stuck on my head. The format of the story is the same as The Enormous Turnip, and I call the children out one by one to help me pull the hat off. Those who have been called out love swaying backwards and forwards as they try to pull the hat off. Those who are still waiting enjoy joining in with “We pulled…and we pulled….and we pulled….but the hat still wouldn’t come off.”

Each time I call another child up, I list the names of the ones already in line. By the time I get to the end of the story I have repeated the names so many times I know I won’t forget them.

The children always enjoy the activity so much that for the rest of the year whenever they see me they ask “Are we going to do French today?” and “Will you tell us that story again?” If you want to give it a try, you’ll find the transcript for the story on my website, www.sjbteaching.com – just click on the link at look at the free resources page.

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