St. Stephen’s Day – August 20, 2021

St. Stephen’s Day is celebrated on August 20 and is an official national holiday in Hungary. Its celebrations are pivotal since this is the day when the foundations of the state of Hungary were laid. This day is observed in order to pay tribute to King Stephen thanks to whom the establishment of the state of Hungary became possible. The celebrations are marked primarily by a massive fireworks display beside the river Danube. St. Stephen’s Day is considered a very sacred day by the people of Hungary.

History of St. Stephen’s Day

St. Stephen’s Day holds a long and interesting history. It begins with Stephen the Grand Prince of the Hungarians who laid the foundations of the state. Until the end of the 10th century, the Hungarians were in conflict with other European countries. In 955 A.D., Hungarian tribes suffered a major military loss and the tribal heads decided to give up their raids and concentrate on building a strong state. Stephen was of the view that the conversion of Magyar to Christianity can serve as a great way of settling down and strengthening the state.

Stephen received a crown from Pope Sylvester II and the honor of becoming the first King of Hungary in 1000 A.D. His crown is considered a holy treasure and is still found in Hungary’s precious treasures. Stephen died on August 15, 1038 A.D. On August 20, 1083 A.D., he was made a Catholic saint. Ladislaus I declared August 20 a holy day and it was first celebrated in 1092 A.D. It was celebrated as St. Stephen’s Feast Day until 1771 when Queen Maria Theresia expanded it from a church feast to an official national holiday. It further went through amendments and in 1950 the holiday’s name was changed to Constitution Day. The Hungarian parliament reinstated it as the commemoration of St. Stephen’s Feast Day to celebrate the foundation of the Hungarian state. In the canonization process, it was found that King Stephen’s right hand had not decayed at all, hence it was removed and can now be seen in St. Stephen’s Basilica in Budapest.

St. Stephen’s Day timeline

896 A.D.
Settlement of Magyars

The Magyars settle in the Carpathian Basin.

955 A.D.
Defeat of Magyars

After several successful raids on western Europe, the Magyars are finally defeated by King Otto I in the battle of Augsburg.

1848
Start of Revolution

The revolution for freedom begins against the Austrian Empire.

1849
Defeat in War of Independence

The Austrian Empire is near defeat when Franz Joseph I involves Russia to help, causing Hungary to lose the war.

St. Stephen’s Day FAQs

What do Hungarians celebrate on August 20?

Hungarians celebrate St. Stephen’s Day on August 20, annually. It is a national holiday of Hungary also known as Constitution Day or Foundation Day because the foundations of the Hungarian state were strengthened by King Stephen.

Why is it called St. Stephen’s Day?

St. Stephen’s Day or feast day of St. Stephen commemorates the foundation of the Hungarian state laid by King Stephen in 1000 A.D.

What is Hungary’s Birthday Cake?

This is the cake of the year selected from an annual competition of best cake-making which the best confectioners take part in.

How to Celebrate St. Stephen’s Day

  1. Watch fireworks

    Watch the massive display of fireworks that takes place at the bank of the river Danube each year on this day. These fireworks are the highlight of this day and are launched at multiple intervals. They serve as the closure of this day and they can be best seen from the rooftops and the riverfront. The launching of fireworks on this day has taken place since 1966.

  2. Attend a ceremony

    You can also attend some official ceremonies arranged specifically on this day. A Hungarian flag is raised at Kossuth Square in front of parliament. It is followed by a food festival where the Cake of Hungary is presented. Then a mess in St. Stephen’s Basilica and a march in the honor of Holy Right-Hand takes place. St. Stephen’s day can be celebrated by attending any of these events.

  3. Enjoy the cake

    Making a birthday cake for a country is not a piece of cake. You can also enjoy the Birthday Cake of Hungary by simply looking for a bakery offering the recipe so you don’t miss out on your chance of having a slice. This cake is selected from the annual contest (arranged by the Hungarian Confectioner Craftsmen Corporation) that famous bakers participate in and the one with the most innovative ideas wins. Both sugar- and sugar-free cakes are prepared.

5 Fun Facts About St. Stephen

  1. Original name

    The original name of King Stephen was Vajk.

  2. Dynasty of the king

    King Stephen belonged to the Árpád dynasty.

  3. Stephen’s religion

    King Stephen was born a pagan but was baptized and became a Christian.

  4. Wife of the king

    King Stephen was married to Gisela, the daughter of Duke Henry II.

  5. Feast day

    The actual date of the feast day of St. Stephen is August 16.

Why We Love St. Stephen's Day

  1. It is a day of victory

    St. Stephen's day commemorates the strengthening of the foundation of the state of Hungary. St. Stephen successfully converted the Magyar people to Christianity, which is celebrated as a victory by Hungarians.

  2. It is a festive day

    The festivities of this day provide a great opportunity for Hungarians as well as tourists. The display of fireworks, food festivals, and various ceremonies serve as an attraction.

  3. It acts as historical and cultural symbolism

    Any nation that possesses certain symbols feels pride in owning and celebrating them. The day bears historical and cultural importance and people celebrate this to demonstrate the significance of freedom.

St. Stephen’s Day dates

YearDateDay
2021August 20Friday
2022August 20Saturday
2023August 20Sunday
2024August 20Tuesday
2025August 20Wednesday

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