Saint Stephan’s day Celebrations ran the weekend of Aug 20th through. Friday – Sunday we did not stop!
Saint Stephen was the first Hungarian King, and he brought Christianity to Hungary where there were once pagans and nomads. He united the people through a common god, and brought order to the seven Hungarian tribes. Before the King they would aggressively attack Western Europe. Through the Catholic Church and a connection to Rome, he built beautiful cathedrals all over the land and asked Popes to join and teach his people. He built up the Hungarian State through rooting them down and building them strong.
King István (Stephen) was canonized in 1083 after death when he was declared a Saint. For the canonization procedure King Stephen’s remains were exhumed. As folklore goes his right hand was found as fresh as the day he was buried. The hand was detached and since then everybody can view our first king’s mummified remains in Saint Stephen’s Basilica in Budapest.
King Stephen’s crown was protected all these 1011 years and is on display in the Parliament as Hungary’s most valuable possession and guarded both day and night by officers.
Another interesting historical fact was that Hungarians celebrated this holiday until 1945. During the communist era the people of Hungary were not allowed to give honor to a King Stephen. It was prohibited due to the religious nature of the celebration. 1990 was the next festival, and it was spectacular, if you can imagine. My mom and I happened to be here that year.
The main events for the holiday are surrounding the King’s right hand in the Basilica, a procession of holy celebrations.
The Air and Water parade on the Danube took place at 2:00pm Saturday in the sweltering heat. Airplanes, jets, and helicopters fly by, entertaining the hundreds of thousands of people watching along the banks of the Danube River. Boats cruise up and down the river at the same time. It is fun for the kids especially.
Vendors were in full swing offering the finest of snacks, cuisine and booze. The line-ups were long. Street musicians and backpackers took advantage of the huge crowds to make money for their bread.
Alfonz and I are totally hooked on one of the franchise ideas we came across on the Danube. Its called Twist and Chips. The first picture of Alfonz is holding the handmade potato chip bag and along with that they hand squeeze lemonade. Simple and delicious!
Giant vats of Goulash soup cooked on the streets stirred by people in traditional costumes.
NOX a famous Hungarian folk singer with a very modern twist, was performing over the loud speakers throughout the streets of Budapest along the Danube. Alfonz and I are fans, being that she sings nursery rhymes. Everyone knows the words to her folk tunes, it was fun for us to be able to sing along.
Saturday at 9:00pm sharp were the fireworks from Gellert Hill, Buda Castle and further down the banks toward the parliament building, all in unison. We made our way with the kids, towards the closed off Lance Bridge and stood in the swarms of people watching the exquisite fireworks display.
After we sat in a street-side pub for a drink, and after an hour the people were still walking past us in a steady stream, coming home from the fireworks. We were long home and the parade of people continued past our apartment window.
Sunday we went to the Festival of Folk Arts in the Budapest Castle District. 3 hours of walking through different ancient trades on displayed from embroidery to leather crafts, to ironworkers, to wood carvers, all done in the traditional Hungarian way.
We saw pottery, bakery and food items, clothing and instruments. People dressed in traditional clothes of ancient varieties, and on stage were endless dancers, and singers from Hungary and outside the boarders.
Hungary used to be much bigger and after the war lost 71% of it’s country and 66% of its population. Because of this 10 million Hungarians live inside Hungary’s boarders and another 10 million live right outside the boarders. They have mixed and been absorbed by their new countries or have moved even farther away.
On celebration days and times like this, they come home to sing and dance with their people. Although their dances, outfits and accents have slightly changed, they are true Magyar descent. Many people travel to these boarder communities as they still speak Hungarian. ‘Erdelyi’ is the term used.
It was another busy weekend with my cousins, chatting and eating. There is so much to see and do in the summer festival months, it really is endless. Every festival starts and finishes with a giant plate of home cooked food. Yummy paprikas, baked goods to drool over.
I made Lecsó (Letcho) a Hungarian sweet pepper and paprika stew with onions and garlic from the peppers I purchased on route that day. I put hot homemade sausage in it, but this is a good one for vegetarians.
This coming week is the Jewish Summer Festivals Aug 26th – Sept 6th, open to Jewish and non-Jewish people alike. It will be my first time in the Synagogue participating. It should be interesting to get to know the Jewish Quarter of our Hungarian homeland.
Written and contributed by Eva Hamori