March 15th is a national holiday in Hungary. It stands for democracy and freedom and it commemorates the Hungarian Revolution of 1848, which grew into a war for independence from Habsburg rule.
History of March 15th
The revolution started on March 15th, 1848, following a series of uprisings throughout Europe. Lajos Kossuth, a famous journalist at the time, emerged as a leader and the revolution seemed to be very successful. A new, independent and democratic government was elected with Hungary’s first Prime Minister, Lajos Batthyány. As Vienna faced its own revolution, the Habsburg Empire first accepted the new government and its demands. However, after the Austrian revolution was defeated, troops were sent to dissolve the newly elected Hungarian parliament, turning the revolution into a war between Austria and Hungary.
The war for independence lasted until August 1849. Initially the Hungarian forces achieved several victories, which led to Hungary’s complete independence from Austria and Lajos Kossuth was named Governor-President. This prompted the Habsburgs to ask for help from their most powerful ally, the Russian Czar. His army invaded Hungary and the revolution was eventually defeated. Kossuth resigned and fled into exile. He even visited the US, where he was widely honored for his achievements. Kossuth County in Iowa was named after him.
Following the war of 1848–49, Lajos Batthyány, the first Hungarian Prime Minister was executed on present-day Szabadság Square and 13 other leaders were executed in the city of Arad.
March 15th Celebrations
Today, March 15th is a national holiday in Hungary and there are several buildings and traditions, which have become a symbol of the revolution and are part of the commemorative ceremonies. Hungarians proudly wear cockades on this day and some of the official celebrations are held at the Hungarian National Museum where young Hungarian revolutionaries, led by poet Sándor Petőfi, held a mass demonstration on the first day of the revolution in 1848.
Festivities start in the morning with the raising of the Hungarian flag in Kossuth Square and continue in front of the Hungarian National Museum. The main events include a ceremonial speech by the Prime Minister and a traditional Hussars procession to the Buda Castle. On this day the Hungarian Holy Crown and the Crown Jewels, on display at the Hungarian Parliament, can be viewed free of charge. Celebrations continue on Castle Hill with dance and music programs and several museums, including the Budapest History Museum, the National Gallery, the National Archive and the Military History Museum, are open to the public free of charge.
Program highlights in 2016:
10 am - 5 pm open day at the Parliament
9 am Raising of the Hungarian flag in Kossuth Square
10:30 Ceremonial greeting from the Mayor of Budapest, followed by a ceremonial speech by the Prime Minister of Hungary, in front of the Hungarian National Museum
10 am - 6 pm Various programs on Castle Hill, free entrance to several museums