Why Are Blue and White the Colors of Oktoberfest?

Oktoberfest greeting card in blue and white colors

The fall is usually filled with color. The season is of course synonymous with a continual rain of bright leaves falling from the trees. But humanity usually has a part to play in the parade of colors as well. The bright orange and black of Halloween is enough to get even the oldest of us ready for costumes, tricks and candy. However, the season also comes with an occasional sight of blue and white. These colors start to appear in late September and extend to early October. It’s not unusual for people to find themselves a little confused by the pairing.

Blue and white are most certainly a huge part of the celebrations seen every fall. However, they invoke a holiday which isn’t quite as well known as Halloween. Blue and white are instead synonymous with Oktoberfest. Of course this raises a lot of questions about both the holiday and the colors associated with it.

The Confusing Timing of Oktoberfest

Happy friends from Bavaria celebrating Oktoberfest

One of the first points to consider is the exact date Oktoberfest occurs. Most people would assume that Oktoberfest would center around October. However, October only marks the end of Oktoberfest. More specifically Oktoberfest usually ends on the first Sunday of October. Meanwhile the celebrations usually begin around September 17th. The fact that there’s so much variation should give some hints about the nature of the holiday. Oktoberfest really isn’t an event for people who take things too seriously.

Oktoberfest is all about forgetting our troubles for a while. People toss their schedules and day planners to the side when they head out for Oktoberfest. We can just let loose with great music, drinks and food.

Different areas of the world tend to schedule celebrations to better accommodate the celebrants. Instead of getting too caught up on dates it’s usually best to just think of Oktoberfest as starting in late September and ending in early October. Some areas might start the festivities a little sooner. Others might want to wait a little longer to avoid bad weather or similar impediments.

The Origin of Oktoberfest

Closeup of horses with decorated heads in blue and white colors at the Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany

We’ve already touched on some of the reasons why Oktoberfest is different from most other holidays. Before looking at modern celebrations and the use of color, we need to go back to the very first Oktoberfest celebration. We can trace Oktoberfest all the way back to October 12, 1810. Citizens of Bavaria were treated to what now seems almost like a fairytale wedding.

Prince Louis and Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen weren’t just getting married. The happy couple were determined to get married in style. They invited everyone in Munich, no matter their social standing, to share in the occasion. The area in front of the city gates were packed with celebrants.

The event was technically focused on the royal wedding. However, in reality it was an occasion all on its own. The horse races in particular proved to be an amazing event. Having the royal family there as well was certainly an important feature. However, many people came to see it as a fantastic addition to an occasion which was amazing all on its own.

The celebration proved to be so popular that the citizens of Munich repeated it again the following year. Of course this time a royal wedding wasn’t part of the events. But this new celebration was a fantastic enough success to prompt a repeat performance. And that tradition has continued on for over 200 years.

Oktoberfest in the Modern World

Elevated view of Oktoberfest in Munich, Bavaria

Today the biggest Oktoberfest celebration happens right where the tradition first began. People still gather together every year in Munich. However, we find Oktoberfest celebrations all over the world. The largest celebration outside of Germany can be found in Ontario. This Canadian celebration usually involves around 750,000 to 1,000,000 people.

The United States deserves particular note for Oktoberfest celebrations. German-American is the largest self-reported ancestral group in the US. As such we shouldn’t be surprised to find that most states in the US have at least one sizable Oktoberfest celebration. However, even smaller towns will often have some truly fantastic events to commemorate the occasion.

What’s especially wonderful about the holiday is that it’s not too set on the specific historical event which spawned it. Oktoberfest might have started as a very German holiday. Likewise, German immigrants brought it to new areas of the world. But today Oktoberfest is more well known as a joyous celebration of some of the best parts of life. We come together to share amazing drinks with beloved friends, family and the community at large. And the food, music and general atmosphere make the occasion truly unique when compared to other holidays.

So far we’ve managed to explain some of the more mysterious aspects of Oktoberfest. But we still have one major mystery left in front of us. Just why do we see combinations of blue and white show up during Oktoberfest?

Blue, White and the Reason for the Season

Blue and white colored flag of Bavaria

The colors of Oktoberfest are actually older than the holiday. Remember the wedding which prompted the very first Oktoberfest celebration? Oktoberfest has become an international holiday. But the celebration originally came into being thanks to Bavarian royalty. And we need look no further for the origins of Oktoberfest’s colors than Bavaria’s own flag. Bavaria’s flag features a bold and striking combination of white and blue.

Of course we can go back even further into the mists of history to see where the flag’s colors arose. Otto II Wittelsbach inherited the Bogen region in 1240. This acquisition prompted him to include the region’s colors into the family herald. With that addition we can see a blue and white lozenge pattern. This would, in turn, become associated with Bavaria as a whole. And of course this would also influence the Bavarian city of Munich during the first Oktoberfest. Over time the color pattern would spread alongside the celebration.

Joyful Colors Bring Us All Together

Oktoberfest graphic design poster on a wooden background

Most Oktoberfest celebrants aren’t overly concerned with history. It’s quite likely that the average person won’t even know where the blue and white patterns originated. However, by understanding the event’s history we can see something truly amazing.

Oktoberfest isn’t just a holiday. The event is proof that different cultures all over the world can joyfully come together to celebrate with each other. A single wedding party in Munich has become a worldwide event. What’s more, it’s a party which has persisted for over 200 years.