Our American heritage is a plethora of customs, cultures, and people. It is a melting pot that blended the traditions of settlers and immigrants into one collective identity. The establishment of civil liberties and unalienable rights in this country allowed for cultural ideals, religions, and lifestyles to be practiced without persecution. This revolutionary idea, centered around the power of the people and tolerance of others, drew scores of immigrants from the ends of the earth, hoping to become part of the American tradition.
In this article, we will take a look at German settlers and the celebration of Oktoberfest. According to the US Census, there are over 46 million people currently living in the US who are descendants of German immigrants (around 14.5% of the total population). The first German immigrants came over in the 1670s and established settlements in the mid-Atlantic region, mostly in Pennsylvania and upstate New York. Massive German influxes didn't come about until after the War of 1812, mainly to seek shelter from political and religious persecution.
The tradition of Oktoberfest wasn't established until 1810, when Prince Ludwig of Bavaria married Princess Therese in Munich. The royal couple invited the city's entire population (around 40,000) to celebrate the occasion. There were horse races, dances, and yes, lots of libations. The celebration would expand in the following years, with the additions of an Agricultural Fair, carousels, and massive fairground tents. Oktoberfest did not make its way over to the US until 100 years after its founding in Bavaria.
My hometown of Lovettsville, Virginia, also known as "The German Settlement," hosts a county-wide Oktoberfest event each year. There is live German music, vendors, carnival games, and plenty of authentic German food and beer to go around! The excitement of the traditional two-week celebration is packed into a three-day event, drawing thousands of pedestrians to this small town. But pretty much anywhere you may travel this time of year, you're sure to find an Oktoberfest event nearby. Some of the largest Oktoberfest events in the US are in Cincinnati, OH, Nashville, TN, and Milwaukee, WI.
Today, Oktoberfest is one of the largest celebrations worldwide. In Munich, alone, over 5 million people attend. Tens of millions more across the US take part in this festival of German heritage and tradition, and you should, too! So throw on your lederhosen, kick back a few brews, chow down on some brats, and enjoy the Oktoberfest celebration! Prost!