Better Than Oktoberfest3 min read

Oktoberfest is a 200+ year old tradition in Munich, Germany that occurs during this time of year. For two weeks, until the first Sunday in October, the Germans have a festival full of the most German things you could imagine: beer, pretzels, bratwursts, and all the rest. I had the chance to go to one while I was studying in England in 2019, but unfortunately the logistics just didn’t work out. It was quite a bummer.

The original Oktoberfest was on October 12, 1810, and celebrated the marriage of the crown prince of Bavaria to his wife. The year after, the anniversary was celebrated in tandem with a state fair, and booths served food and drinks. Year after year the festival expanded until it has become the festival of renown that we know of today.

As German immigrants settled in America throughout the mid-19th century, they brought their traditions with them. Even today some of those traditions flourish, including Oktoberfest. This is especially true in cities like Frankenmuth, with a large German heritage. In various places throughout the country, you can find celebrations that are small peeks into what the legendary Munich festival looks like. From what I have heard, however, nothing compares to the real thing.

In Isaiah 25, the prophet writes about a festival to come for God’s people. He writes, “On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined … He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces” (Isaiah 25:6,8). Jesus speaks about the kingdom of God in parables describing feasts as well. We know this is referring to when Christ will return and make all things new. There will be a great feast, a celebration of the marriage of the Lamb and His Bride (the Church) finally and forever.

Even though we do not know exactly, we have little peeks into what that day will look like. We call Holy Communion a “foretaste of the feast to come” because in the Lord’s Supper we are forgiven of our sin and united with Christ. God and man together again. We also tend to have luncheons after funerals. This is another way we get a peek at what that final feast will look like. We gather with people we perhaps have not seen in a long while to remember God’s promises and mourn the loss of the loved one who passed away. There is always a mixture of happiness at getting together, and sadness at the loss.

But much like American Oktoberfest celebrations, these small peeks do not hold a candle to the real thing. In that final feast there will be no more sin to be forgiven, for the “old order of things has passed away.” We also will be physically in God’s presence in a way that has not happened since the Garden of Eden. And finally, we won’t have sadness mixed with happiness because there will be no more tears on that day.

While I’d love to see a Munich Oktoberfest in my lifetime, I could go without. I know that we won’t miss out on the great wedding feast between the Lamb and His Bride, and I can’t wait to join into that celebration. And that celebration won’t last only two days or two weeks, but for eternity. Nothing will compare to the real thing.

Photo © kzenon/iStock

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About the Author

Rev. Brandon Wittig is the pastor at Trinity, Sawyer

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Pam Ogle - October 19, 2023

Beautifully written, Pastor Wittig. You captured the true essence of what the meaning of gathering together is all about. Like you said, nothing will compare to the real thing when we are gathered together in Heaven.

Gerald Heuer - October 20, 2023

Pastor Wittig thank you for your wonderful message and the history of the Oktoberfest. Per my cousin in Kempton (Allgäu—old Roman city) Bavaria, the original wedding celebration was inside the castle for the nobility, but it was the bride and groom who wanted the commoners to partake of the celebration, so they followed up with a celebration outside the castle for the people. Also, the bride was from Saxony because the prince had asked his father where could he find the ‘fairest maiden” and his father told him to go to Saxony. (My cousin is from Dresden-Radeberg, Saxony where my father grew up. And if you get to Germany, you need to travel to Kempton (southwest of Munich and see the Roman ruins.)