This past Oktoberfest I was wondering if there was a connection between that grand fest and the feast of Michaelmas. Bavaria is the main part of Germany that remained Catholic after the reformation, so it was hard to believe there was no connection. However, the current Oktoberfest stems from the royal wedding of King Ludwig I and Princess Theresa of Saxe-Hildburghousen in 1810. The royal couple kindly invited everyone, and also arranged for horse races. The event was so popular among the Bavarian folk, that they continued to celebrate the anniversary of the royal couple each year. The fest grew and grew, to eventually include a farm show, rides, and other entertainment as well (though the original horse race attraction was dropped). So the modern Oktoberfest is not directly related to Michaelmas.
But, proper Oktoberfest beer, Märzen, is. In 1539 A Munich city ordinance was passed restricting the brewing of beer during the Summer to reduce the chance of fires in the city. Brewing was allowed from Michaelmas to the feast of St. George (April 23rd). So, at the end of the brewing season they would brew enough beer to last the summer. I guess the last batches were started in March (März) which is how they got their name (That’s right, its a beer named after March to be served in September for an October festival). I like how, in good Catholic fashion, they ordered their laws around the liturgical calendar. At any rate, when Michaelmas (and the new brewing season) rolled around, they emptied the stores of old beer to clear the way for new beer.
There are in fact many fests in Bavaria throughout the year, especially the summer. Oktoberfest is just one among many. So, it’s hard to believe there wasn’t already a fest around that time before the royal wedding of 1810. However I wasn’t able to find any information about it. If anyone knows anything else about it, I would appreciate learning more.
Here is some amber ale I brewed myself with the intention of having it ready for Michaelmas, but I got a late start so it’s more of St. Luke brew. But I put an icon of St. Michael with it anyway.