It's fall, and that means two things: Halloween and Oktoberfest.
Though modern celebrations of Oktoberfest look quite different from when the festival originated in 1810, many traditions have stuck around for centuries. The popular Munich festival takes place at the end of September through the beginning of October. It's known for its hefty liter-sized beer stein, arching white tents where tourists from every corner of the world come to prost, and delicious German food served by waitresses dressed in dirndls.
Oktoberfest was unfortunately canceled this year, but here’s a way to celebrate regardless. Check out our roundup of vocab and Oktoberfest rituals.
Prost - Cheers
This word is likely to be the most-used on any Oktoberfest adventure. If a glass is raised, you’re expected to raise yours, make eye contact and shout prost! In most tents, the band will play Ein Prosit every 20 minutes, which is yet another mandatory toast — sing along to these lyrics and raise your glass.
Ein Prosit, Ein Prosit, der Gemütlichkeit
Ein Prosit, Ein Prosit, der Gemütlichkeit
Eins, zwei, drei, g'suffa!
Tradition also says that if you don’t look your prost partner in the eyes while cheers-ing, you’ll have bad sex for seven years. All the more reason to read up on your German terms before attending Oktoberfest!
die Bierleichen - Beer Corpses
You might catch glimpses of "beer corpses" splayed around the Oktoberfest grounds, most likely taking a snooze before heading back into the tents for another stein.
Das Bierzelt - Beer Tent
Tents are where you’ll gather with all your beer-drinking compatriots to celebrate Oktoberfest. Munich has 14 large tents around the festival grounds, along with many smaller tents.
You can expect long wooden tables crowded with dirndl-wearing tourists and German locals. If you’re heading to the festival with a group larger than three, it’s best to reserve a table in advance, as they quickly fill up and it may be difficult to find a seat together.
Each tent has a different atmosphere, with some catered to the more traditional festival-goer and others for newcomers.
A Dirndl is a traditional Bavarian dress that’s now donned by nearly everyone headed to Oktoberfest. If you choose to forgo the bodice, blouse, skirt, and apron combo, you’ll probably stick out in the crowd, so we recommend purchasing or renting one before heading to the festival. Your dirndl also shows your relationship status — tie it on left if you’re single or on the right if you’re taken.
The Lederhosen are to men what the dirndls are to women — you can expect to see many men clad in these classic leather trousers with suspenders, tall socks, and a button up shirt.
die Maß - liter of beer
The mass is the heavy glass mug used to serve beer at Oktoberfest. Keep in mind that the mass is always a full liter of beer — so we recommend pacing yourself and drinking plenty of water between each liter.
You’ll find that the steins are far thicker than your typical glass, which allows all the drunken festival goers to prost without shattering their mugs.
O’zapft is - It’s tapped
This expression signifies the opening of the two-week extravaganza known as Oktoberfest. On the first day of Oktoberfest, the mayor of Munich taps the first keg of beer and begins the celebration with this Bavarian saying.
Schlager Musik - Hit Music
The boisterous music blaring from every tent is known as schlager musik and is usually a combination of traditional German favorites like Ein Prosit and classic hits like “Highway to Hell.”
Wiesn or Theresienwiese - Festival Grounds
The sprawling festival grounds will include roller coasters, food tents, carnival games and souvenir shops. You can hop on the 164-foot-tall Ferris Wheel, or Risenrad, to get a great view of the grounds or stroll along the Avenue of Booths (Budenstrassa) for some fanfare to bring home.
Der Ententanz - Chicken Dance
The Chicken Dance is a staple of Oktoberfest celebrations, especially as the day wears on and visitors get boozier by the hour. Each repetition of the song gets faster and is capped off by spinning with your arms out or by locking arms to spin with your neighbor — which is more challenging than it may sound after a few liters of beer.
Zum Wohl - To your health
Similar to prost, you can expect to toast your mass to zom wohl as well.
These white veal and pork sausages are a traditional Okoberfest feast, served in a pot of hot water with a bretzenl (pretzel), mustard, and a weissbier (wheat beer). This meal is actually a traditional Bavarian breakfast — so you won’t be able to find a weisswurst after noon.
Eat this meal before beginning your day and hope that the hearty sausage will help you survive the many liters of beer to come.
Whether you’re cheering zum wohl or doing the chicken dance, keeping in line with Oktoberfest traditions is a large part of the fun. It might be canceled this year, but grab some weisswurst and beer and celebrate anyway.