October 12, 1810. The citizens of Munich are invited to celebrate the marriage of Crown Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen in the fields just outside the city. The party ended with a horse race, which organisers decided to repeat the following year. Since then the festivities have continued to grow and Oktoberfest, as it is now known, is the biggest annual festival in the world. The highlight of the modern Oktoberfest is beer; proceedings get under way only when the Mayor of Munich opens the first keg with the cry “O’ zapft is!” (“It’s tapped” in the local tongue). Typically over the course of the following two and a half weeks, more than six million people will visit, working their way through around seven million litres of beer.
Also on October 12: Christopher Colombus arrives in the Americas (1492); the First Battle of Passchendaele in WWI (1917); Margaret Thatcher survives an assassination attempt after the IRA bombing of a hotel in Brighton, UK (1984); the UN proclaims the birth of the six billionth living human (1999).
Born on October 12: Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872), Luciano Pavarotti (1935), Hugh Jackman (1968), Bode Miller (1977).