Saturday, August 20, 2011

Happy Founding of the State/New Bread/1948 Constitution/St. Stephen Day!

It's August 20, baby! And we are in Budapest to celebrate it!

August 20th is the national holiday of Hungary, or at least it was with the previous constitution that defined state holidays and THE national holiday. It is a holiday of multiple purposes.

  1. It celebrates the founding of the state by St. Stephen of Hungary, the first king of the Hungarians. Before him, Hungary had cieftains and Hungarians followed shamanistic religions. Stephen, after much fighting with older family members, particularly his uncle Koppány (nominally Eastern Christian, but a pagan chiftain of the Somogy region), became the head chieftain in 997 and was crowned king in 1000/1001. Before his death in 1038 he forced Christianity on his subjects and established a European, Roman Catholic kingdom. The struggle and coronation was turned into an awesome rock opera titled István, a király (Stephen, the king) in 1983. It's usually shown on TV on August 20th.
  2. As a result of #1, he was canonized in 1083, on August 20th. That was his feast day till the late 17th century, when it was moved, but in Hungary August 20th is still celebrated as his feast day.
  3. The new bread. It was traditional in Hungary to bake the first bread from the wheat of the new harvest for August 20th. Or so I'm told.
  4. The (1948) constitution. Maybe it was the 1949 constitution? Anyway, it was the post-WWII constitution of Hungary. I guess this no longer applies, as the current government tossed it out and came up with a piece of cr@p for a constitution.

The day is usually celebrated with fairs, an air show (though I'm not sure about this year), concerts, and fireworks. THE fireworks means the 30-minute-long display over the Danube in Budapest, broadcast by most non-cable TV stations and witnessed by hundreds of thousands of people. It can be seen from as far away as Újpest on the Pest side! Nowadays there are other fireworks both within Budapest and in other towns and villages. It's totally awesome. This year I'll watch it om TV, and send Kevin and Yonah watch it from one of the bridges. But before that, have a little BBQ on the balcony and go do some fun things in town.

A song from István, a király from the 25th anniversary show. It's called "You are so far from me, yet so close". Yeah, it's about G-d, faith, and the whole thing about Hungary needing Christianity, and the politics vs. faith thing. A lot deeper than just a pretty song.


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