Plan Your Own Oktoberfest Party

You can host your own Oktoberfest party, complete with German food and the beer to go with it.

It All Started with a Wedding Reception
Oktoberfest has a long and rich history that dates back almost two centuries to a royal wedding reception. On October 12, 1810, Crown Prince Ludwig of Bavaria, a region in southeast Germany, married Princess Therese, and everyone in the city of Munich, Bavaria's capital, was invited to attend the celebration. This wedding reception turned into a huge festival and proved so popular that it was repeated in the years to come.

Horse racing was a part of the first gathering and, over the years, an Agricultural Show and a carousel joined the entertainment lineup. The most enduring part of this annual celebration has been the rich food, the beer drinking and the overwhelming spirit of community and friendship.

Setting the Mood
When shopping around for party decorations, don't forget to buy napkins and tablecloths in blue and white, Bavaria's state colors. If the weather looks promising, set up a party tent in the backyard, and serve food and beer at tables inside the tent. The community atmosphere is an essential part of any Oktoberfest gathering, so use benches instead of chairs if possible.

Oktoberfest Food
As the host, it's important to lay out a good selection of food with a distinct German flavor:

German leek and potato soup: Light and creamy, this soup makes an excellent first course.

Currywurst: Taking the chill out of the fall air, this sausage dish is a surprising treat with enough spice to clear the sinuses.

Soft pretzels: Available in the frozen food section at most grocery stores, soft pretzels are easily prepared in the oven or microwave and can be served throughout the party. Some people prefer their pretzels smeared with spicy yellow mustard, so keep this condiment handy.

Rotisserie chicken: Though it seems like an American thing to serve, rotisserie chicken is a big traditional favorite at Oktoberfest.

Bratwurst: A year-round favorite, this sausage is best served grilled with a big side of sauerkraut.

Potato pancakes: One of the tastiest German side dishes, potato pancakes are especially good served with applesauce and sour cream.

Desserts: Nothing closes out a good Oktoberfest meal like apple strudel and chocolate cake.

Time for Beer
Guests will come to your celebration with a healthy appetite and an even healthier thirst, so make sure to stock up on a selection of alcoholic beverages. As the annual celebration grows closer, it's easy to find various Oktoberfest-themed beers produced by both German and American brewers, including Samuel Adams Octoberfest and Michelob marzen. These specialty beers are fairly close to marzenbier, a traditional German beer that was brewed in March and served later in the year. You may also want to pick up some German beer. Spaten, a brewery in Munich, claims to have brewed the first Oktoberfest beer in 1872.

At your gathering, don't forget to have plenty of beer alternatives and nonalcoholic beverages on hand. Your designated drivers will want to have something to put in their beer steins. For an extra special touch, serve your drinks in 1-liter Oktoberfest mugs. However, don't put out your best steins if you are a stein collector. You don't want one of your best steins to break in the event of an especially hearty toast.

Oktoberfest Etiquette
Oktoberfest is a loud, joyous celebration, so it's a great opportunity to cut loose, but make sure your guests learn some of the customs and traditions:

Toasts: When making a toast with those around you, make sure to clink the thick part of your mug or stein as your say "Prost" (German for "Cheers!"). It's also good manners to toast every person within arm's reach.

Sausage Etiquette: Surprisingly enough, the Mt. Angel Sausage Company has published a list of sausage-eating rules, including using your fingers to eat sausages and not utensils. When adding condiments, Mt. Angel's also stresses the importance of dressing the sausage and not the bun.

While you aren't required to dress up for your American Oktoberfest, you'll have a lot more fun if you let guests know that men should wear lederhosen ("leather trousers"), and women should wear dirndls. The words "leather trousers" are a little misleading since lederhosen are more like shorts. Dirndls are dresses with loose white blouses and a tight, usually low-cut corset.

Promise to hold a costume contest with prizes so guests show up in their best Bavarian style.

Be a Responsible Oktoberfest Host
Because you will be serving alcohol, it's a good idea to appoint a designated driver to make sure that anyone who enjoys Oktoberfest too much makes it home safe. Guests should drop their car keys in a stein, which is watched over by the "key master." Only those sober enough to drive can get their keys back at the end of the night.

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