Every August 20th, St. Stephen’s Day (St. István in Hungarian), Hungary throws a massive celebration to celebrate the birth of their country. St. Stephen laid the foundation of the country by converting the Magyar people to Christianity and then became Hungary’s first king in 1000AD. Years later, on August 20, 1083, King Stephen’s remains were exhumed. According to the story his right hand was found as if he had never been buried. The detached and mummified right hand can now be seen at St. Stephen’s Basilica.
August 20th then became a national holiday with many different names. Originally dubbed the “Celebration of the Saint King,” the Communist leaders in 1945 changed it to “Parade of the New Bread” due to the previous religious nature of the holiday. In 1990 the Hungarian Parliament declared August 20th a national holiday again.
The night before, I was invited to go night hiking. Apparently its a tradition in Hungary. The night before a national holiday, they have special routes and hikes that you can take. The whole hike was 20km and would take about 7 hours to complete. I opted for sleeping instead.
There were a number of festivals and celebrations going on. We started off at the Air and Water Parade where boats and airplanes were put on display. The show started off slowly and many pauses in between displays. The airplanes were crazy! Some of the tricks and stunts they were pulling off were so amazing.
Click through to see what else I did to celebrate Hungary’s birthday!
Next we walked down the Avenue of Hungarian Flavours which was a street lined with tasty Hungarian treats from jams to pastry to sausages. Everything looked delicious.
The most important stall was the one passing out the birthday cake. Every year Hungary puts on a competition to find a birthday cake for the year. The challenge is to incorporate Hungarian flavours in an innovation and creative way, connecting the cake to the holiday. This year an apricot cake from the Zila Coffee House and Confectionary was the winner. Because of the ingredients, those that are diabetic and allergic to gluten and eat it too (this surprised me because a lot of places don’t account for food allergies). The line for the cake was ridiculously long so I didn’t get a chance to try it. But no worry, the cake will be available in bakeries soon and I can try it then.
The day was hot and there were so many people. I decided to go hide until the fireworks later that night. The fireworks was quite the display. They were launched from four locations along the the Danube river. The show is set to music. There were so many people watching them! Its nothing like watching the Celebration of Lights back home. There isn’t anywhere to sit properly and the sight line is rather broken up by trees, lights and people standing. The cool thing is being able to look around and see different sets of fireworks taking off at the same time.
My favourite shot of the night!
For more photos check out my album here.