August 20th is the greatest national holiday for Hungarians, celebrated with day-long festivities followed by spectacular fireworks throughout the country. August 20th commemorates the foundation of the Hungarian state, it's like Hungary's 4th of July. Also called as St. Stephen's Day, remembering Stephen I, the first king of Hungary and founder of the Kingdom of Hungary, who was canonized on August 20th, 1083 by Pope Gregory VII.
Festivities start in the morning with the raising of the Hungarian flag in Kossuth tér and continue on all day long, culminating in a spectacular fireworks display over the Danube. The main events include the procession of St. Stephen's Holy Right Hand around the Basilica, the Court of St Stephen, a historical playhouse, archery shows, a water parade and an air show along the embankments of the river Danube.
In 2012, the August 20th celebrations begin on the 19th with a Hungarian gastro fair aptly named 'Promenade of Hungarian Flavors' (Magyar Ízek Sétánya) and several open air concerts. Some of the program highlights are:
Promenade of Hungarian Flavors (Magyar Ízek Sétánya)
Where: Buda embankment, between Clark Ádám tér (Chain Bridge) and Bem József tér (Margaret Bridge)
When: from 10 am to midnight on Aug 19th and from 10 am to 10 pm on Aug 20th
Tip: be sure to taste the 10,000-slice mega-cake specially made for this occasion
Open air concerts
Where: Bem József tér (Margaret Bridge) and Clark Ádám tér (Chain Bridge)
When: From 8 pm to midnight on Aug 19th
Open Day at the Parliament - visit the beautiful Parliament Building for free
Where: Parliament Building (Kossuth tér)
When: from 1 pm to 8 pm on Aug 20th
An historic carnival with a water parade and an air show
Where: along both embankments of the river Danube
When: from 10 am to 11 pm on Aug 20th
Where: St. Stephen's Basilica (Szent István tér)
When: 5 pm on August 20th
Procession of St. Stephen's Holy Right Hand
Where: St. Stephen's Basilica - Szent István tér - Október 6. utca - József Attila utca - Széchényi tér - Zrínyi utca - Szent István tér
When: from 6 pm on Aug 20th
Where: both embankments of the river Danube
When: from 9 pm on Aug 20th
The Festival of Folk Arts, held in Buda Castle, is also celebrated over the St Stephen's Day weekend.
St. Stephen's Day also marks the festival of the new bread celebrated in cities and towns across the country. Traditionally, the first bread from the new harvest is baked on this day.