It’s St. Stephen’s Day today. St. Stephen (ca. 975 – 15 August 1038) was our founding king who established the Kingdom of Hungary in AD 1000. His feast day or nameday marks the day of the Foundation of Hungary. It’s also “the Day of the New Bread” because harvesting was traditionally finished on this day.
The Hungarian tribes conquered the Carpathian Basin at the end of the 9th century, in the last wave of the Migration Period. A feudal state had to be established or Hungarians would have disappeared like so many peoples did in the age of the Migration Period. St. Stephen (“Szent István”) led the country into the Christian church and established the institutions of the kingdom and the church. He chose Western Christianity even though the Byzantine influence was much stronger in his time and it actually looked more promising than Western Christianity. We, modern Hungarians, should thank him for that, too, because Western Christianity turned out to result in a better organized state, less corruption and less despotism.
The holiday is always celebrated with lots of programs (I attended a free concert of Ghymes yesterday 🙂 ), including the oath taking of newly graduated policemen and military officers and the evening fireworks display on the bank of the Danube in the evening, which is always attended by many people on both river banks and is watched by many from the hills on the Buda side of the river.
Watch last year’s firework here: