Oktoberfest is about more than the obvious mass consumption of beer.
The Bavarian festival originated in Munich, Germany, in 1810 as a celebration of the wedding of Crown Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese.
So it began as a celebration of love. But as is the case with many wedding celebrations, it became an opportunity to drink heavily. However, symbols of love still abound — in the form of gingerbread hearts.
At Oktoberfest, men often buy their sweethearts a heart-shaped gingerbread cookie with some sort of sweet message written in white icing.
When my husband and I went to Oktoberfest in Munich in 2012, I noticed a lot of women wearing wearing large gingerbread heart cookies on ribbons around their necks.
These whimsical hearts are known as Lebkuchenherz (German for “gingerbread heart”). A gingerbread heart is the customary accessory for women who wear traditional dirndl dresses to Oktoberfest.
Common messages include Ich Liebe Dich (I love you). Sometimes cookies are even used for marriage proposals.
Judging from Instagram, Meine Prinzessin (My Princess) seems particularly trendy. Single women can enjoy the tradition as well. Some women just wear cookies bearing their names, or cookies that declare that they are single.
The hearts are big business. The German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemein reports that the confectionery company Zuckersucht bakes 50,000 “wiesn hearts” daily for Oktoberfest. (Locals often refer to Oktoberfest as wiesn.)
Major German brands also often tweet out images of heart cookies bearing their logos. And many young women even sport heart-shaped purses.
The German publication Focus noted that the fascination with the sweet and spicy hearts has been unabated for decades – with adults and children alike adoring the confections.
But the publication notes that it is the message — rather than the taste of gingerbread – that has become most important. Those messages can range from declarations of love to flirtation to jokes.
Focus notes that decades ago, baker Gustav Teschernich popularized the gingerbread hearts sold in Oktoberfest stalls after he discovered that the chocolate hearts he was selling unfortunately melted in the sun.
Try to resist the urge to eat your Oktoberfest heart — it makes a perfect souvenir!
My husband bought me a simple Oktoberfest cookie (no message), which we still have not eaten.
This is one sweet tradition that isn’t going away any time soon!
I also found some other entertaining cookies on social media:
Spatzl (“Darling” or “little sparrow”)
The Perfect “10”
Meine traumfrau (“My dream woman”)
Or just your names….
Extra scharf (“extra hot”)
I mog di (“I like you”)
Du bist alles fur mich (“You’re everything to me”)