Hungary – At his first inauguration as Prime Minister of Hungary on 6 July 1998, Viktor Orbán declared, among other things, that Hungary would henceforth celebrate its national holidays properly. This weekend’s St. Stephen’s Day celebrations should live up to this ambition. The authorities are talking about the biggest celebration ever, including a monumental fireworks display this evening.
Indeed, the Hungarian authorities have prepared what can only be described as an exceptional programme for this year’s festivities commemorating the founding of Hungary in the year 1000 by St Stephen (Szent István), the first king of Hungary, of the Árpád dynasty – who ruled until 1301.
Hundreds of events over three and a half days in 17 locations
Festivities are planned throughout the country. In Budapest, the traditional procession of the Holy Right (the mummified right hand of King St. Stephen) will take place in the afternoon, as well as a parade on Andrássy Avenue. A flag-raising ceremony took place this morning in front of parliament in the presence of President János Áder and Defence Minister Tibor Benkő, with the swearing-in of army officers, followed by an air parade. The highlight of the show tonight at 9pm will be “Europe’s largest fireworks display” (lasting 34 minutes, with 40,000 rockets) between the Margaret and Petőfi bridges.
As State Secretary Zoltán Kovács announced, hundreds of events will take place over three and a half days in 17 different locations, including a folk arts festival in the Buda Castle district, with craft demonstrations, visual workshops, fashion shows, folk dances, traditional food, with the Turkic peoples as guests of honour, all turning the Castle Bazaar on the Buda side into a huge craft festival. On the Pest side, onlookers will be able to admire the golden wagon reconstructed according to the original of 1938. This wagon had been used to display the Crown throughout the country and its faithful reconstruction will be guarded by the Guards of the Holy Crown in ceremonial dress. Finally, dozens of concerts will be held throughout the city centre from Thursday evening until Sunday.
One of the secondary objectives of these festivities being also “to help the Hungarian tourism industry, weakened by the coronavirus pandemic”, as the government spokeswoman, Alexandra Szentkirályi, specified, the covidian restrictions will be largely lightened during this weekend.