Prince Ludwig (later King Ludwig I) of Bavaria (the grandfather of “Mad” King Ludwig II) started this historic tradition when he married Princess Theresia of Saxony-Hildburghausen on October 12, 1810. Ludwig gave an open wedding invitation to the people of Munich—and about 40,000 of them came. The Prince set up tents in a field on the outskirts of Munich, later called ‘Theresienwiese’ (Theresa’s Meadow), in honor of his lady. To entertain the crowd, he organized a horse race and supplied copious amounts of beer. Everyone had such a good time that they decided to hold the horse race (and beer drinking) again the next year, but this time in conjunction with the state agricultural show. The local brewers realized that they could sell a lot of beer in a very short time, which is the reason why it has become a 16-day extravaganza ending the first Sunday in October. The rest, as they say, is history.
In the following years the festival was moved into September and prolonged. The warmer nights in September allowed visitors to enjoy the gardens outside and the tents. In Germany the fest starts on the third Saturday of September and ends the first weekend in October.