These days, Oktoberfest is a 16-day beer-for-all at Munich’s historic fairgrounds—but when it got its start 105 years ago, it was simply the world’s best wedding reception.
When Bavaria’s Crown Prince Ludwig married Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen on this day, Oct. 12, in 1810, Munich residents celebrated with horse races and several days of drinking and feasting. It went over so well that they repeated the festivities the following year. They’ve done the same (almost) every year since. The event, which draws about 6 million tourists every year, pours more than 7 million liters of local beer down attendees’ gullets and more than $1 billion a year into the local economy. But the Bavarian beer bash has had a few hiccups along the way.
Especially troubled years included:
1854: Organizers were forced to cancel Oktoberfest in the face of cholera outbreaks that killed thousands in Munich and ravaged other cities across Europe. Another wave of the waterborne illness preempted the festival in 1873.
1866: Canceled due to war (Austro-Prussian).
1870: Canceled due to war (Franco-Prussian).
1914 to 1918: Canceled due to war (World War I).
1923 and 1924: Hyperinflation squelched the festivities for two consecutive years when, per PBS, “the exchange rate… was one trillion Marks to one dollar, and a wheelbarrow full of money would not even buy a newspaper.”
1939 to 1945: Canceled due to war (World War II).
1980: A neo-Nazi extremist detonated a hand grenade packed with nails in the midst of the celebration, killing 13 revelers and wounding more than 200 in what the New York Times called Germany’s deadliest-ever right-wing terrorist attack.
2007: Officials banned American heiress Paris Hilton from attending Oktoberfest the year after she appeared in Munich, wearing a dirndl, to promote her newly launched canned wine. Although the festival does have a wine tent, locals didn’t appreciate Hilton’s particular brand of self-promotion, which they said “cheapened” the event.
This year may belong on the list as well. The festival, which concluded earlier this month, wasn’t canceled—but its timing, alongside a massive influx of refugees arriving in Germany by train, helped prompt the country’s decision to impose emergency border controls in mid-September. As TIME explained:
Read more about the history of Munich, here in the TIME archives: The Young City
The “pye”—as it used to be spelled—is a venerable dish, which can be traced all the way back to ancient Greece and Rome. But those pastry-based dishes weren’t the desserts we tend to think of today. Instead, they were overwhelmingly savory dishes. And for good reason: the crusts could help the contents of the pie (meat, typically) last a little longer than they would otherwise.
Even apple pies didn’t used to look the way they do now:
Read the full story here: A Brief History of Pie
Eggnog is centuries old, it turns out:
But it wasn’t always associated with the end-of-year holiday season. That happened when the drink came to the Americas; even George Washington had his own signature recipe for eggnog, which by his time had begun to be made with rum.
Read the full story here: A Brief History of Eggnog
This peculiarly patterned breakfast staple has a surprisingly long and illustrious history. The ancient Greeks used a tool kind of like a waffle iron to make cakes, and the treat came to the New World with some of its earliest European settlers:
But it wasn’t until the 1930s that a California family combined instant waffle mix, electricity and ingenuity to come up with a way to mass-produce waffles. The eventual result, if you haven’t already guessed, was Eggos.
Read the full story here: A Brief History of Waffles
Peanut butter’s origins are a bit mysterious. Contrary to the popular myth that George Washington Carter came up with the idea, there’s evidence that some version of peanut butter was being made at least a couple decades before he published his 1916 text How to Grow the Peanut and 105 Ways of Preparing it For Human Consumption:
Read the full story here: A Brief History of Peanut Butter
Unlike peanut butter, Buffalo wings have a an easily identified origin: Buffalo, N.Y. But what exactly happened to spark its birth is a little blurrier:
In one version of the story, the dish was invented merely to get rid of a surplus of chicken wings; in another version, Bellissimo’s son specifically asked for wings.
Read the full story here: A Brief History of Buffalo Wings
The American maple-syrup industry can be traced back to the 17th century, when farmers began to tap the trees on their properties for a sweetener that was, at the time, cheaper than sugar:
The old system of making maple syrup—leaving buckets under taps, collecting sap, hauling the buckets to the sugar house to be heated—was eventually widely replaced by a method that used tubes and vacuums rather than buckets and gravity.
Read the full story here: A Brief History of Maple Syrup
Salt isn’t technically a food in itself, but it makes so many foods taste so much better that we couldn’t leave it off the list. Plus, its history is one of the longest, most interesting food stories out there, dating all the way back to the days when, as TIME put it in 1982, “animals wore paths to salt licks [and] men followed.” Salt was, eventually, one of the pillars of civilization:
Read the full story here: A Brief History of Salt
Though the word “barbecue” is misapplied to all manner of grilled meats, it actually refers to a specific process (indirect heat, slow cooking) and comes from a specific tradition:
Eventually, barbecue separated into several regional styles with their own preferences for meats and flavors.
Read the full story here: A Brief History of Barbecue
So, you run out and make or buy all these foods, now that they’re on your mind, but there’s no way you can eat them all right away. Which brings us to leftovers. It’s not as if someone had to “invent” the idea of saving what remains at the end of a meal—after all, in the pre-modern feast-and-famine cycle, saving the fruit of the harvest was a matter of life and death. But that doesn’t mean that the look of leftovers hasn’t changed over the years. Thanks, largely, to refrigeration:
Read the full story here: A Brief History of Leftovers
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