Oktoberfest, the world's most famous beer festival, kicked off its 179th edition at the Theresienwiese fairground in Germany on 22 September. Christian Ude, the Lord Mayor of Munich, tapped the first keg of Oktoberfest beer to declare the 16-day event open. The traditional opening ceremony also included a 12-gun salute.

The opening day of Oktoberfest 2012 coincided with the autumnal equinox in the northern hemisphere, which brought heavy rain to Munich.

Millions of beer drinkers from around the world will crowd into the Bavarian capital over the next two weeks for a festival that is also a showcase for Bavarian culture.

The women wear a traditional outfit - Drindl - which consists of a bodice, a skirt, a blouse and an apron - and revellers take part in processions of regional costumes. The event was first held in 1810 to celebrate the royal wedding of Crown Prince Ludwig, later King Ludwig I, to Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen in October.

The fest features beer tents, sales booths, souvenir shops, carnival rides and restaurants serving traditional delicacies. The Schottenhamel tent is the most important at the festival. It is here that the Mayor taps the first Oktoberfest beer barrel, after which the other tents are permitted to start serving.

"The Schottenhamel tent, which in 1867 was just a small beer booth with 50 seats, has become the largest Wiesn tent with circa 10,000 seats. The Schottenhamel is the favourite hunting ground for Munich's young people, who meet there to drink and party," according to the official website of the Oktoberfest.

Oktoberfest has also proved a boon for German tourism and employment, with upwards of £664m spent every year and 12,000 people signing up for temporary work.

Beer is the major source of income at Oktoberfest. In 2011 almost 7.5m litres of beer were sold. Prices have increased this year, though... by 3.9 percent since last year and 43 percent over a decade.

Feel the atmosphere of Oktoberfest 2012 in the photos below.

A reveller uses a plastic bag to cover herself from heavy rain on the opening day of the Munich Oktoberfest, at the Theresienwiese in Munich, 22 September, 2012REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach
Women in traditional Bavarian clothing prepare for the 179th Oktoberfest in Munich, 22 September 2012REUTERS/Guido Krzikowski
An empty Oktoberfest beer tent four days before the opening of the beer festival in MunichREUTERS/Michael Dalder
A trader covers his traditional gingerbread to protect it from heavy rain on the opening day of the Munich Oktoberfest, at the Theresienwiese in Munich, September 22 2012REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach
People queue outside the Schottenhamel tent to watch the opening of the 179th Oktoberfest in MunichREUTERS
Two men in traditional dress await the opening of the 179th Oktoberfest in MunichREUTERS
Revellers protect themselves from heavy rain on the opening day of Oktoberfest in MunichREUTERS
A trader arranges candy and Bavarian mascots on a stall at Oktoberfest in MunichREUTERS