The country in unison! – 2010
Hundreds of thousands took part in the National Foundation Day events in Budapest

Many thousands of people took part in the events celebrating the 20 August national holiday, which were held in a festive atmosphere and in good weather. The day’s official event was the ceremonial raising of the national flag, which was watched in front of the Parliament Building by several thousand people – but without the cordons and barriers that were present in previous years. After the ceremony the National Mounted Guard of Honour and military bands paraded along Andrássy út in the direction of Hősök tere, where a display of arms was given by the Guard of Honour, and there was an exhibition of military technology and an air display. In these fitting surroundings, newly-graduated students from Zrínyi Miklós National Defence University took part in the officers’ training passing out ceremony. President of the Republic Pál Schmitt gave an official address at the proceedings, and then Minister of Defence Csaba Hende addressed the graduate officers. An innovation this year was that after their official oath of allegiance the graduate officers concluded their pledges by drawing their swords, and a company of graduates lined up in the new ceremonial uniform being introduced next year. The ceremony was concluded with music and a ceremonial changing of the guard.

As part of the celebration events in the afternoon there was a rededication ceremony for the internationally significant historic ship the Lajta Monitor, which was escorted on the Danube by thirty boats. Ceremonial addresses were given by Minister of Defence Csaba Hende and Lieutenant General Dr. József Holló, the Director General of the Institute and Museum of Military History. More than ten thousand people watched the event from the banks of the Danube.

In 2010 the tradition of a harvest procession was revived, commemorating the Festival of New Bread. The event began in the afternoon with an ecumenical service in Clark Ádám tér, where Gábor Tamás Nagy greeted the participants and where the ceremonial harvest procession set off. Dancers and master bakers in traditional dress walked in procession along the Chain Bridge to the square in front of Saint Stephen’s Basilica, where the traditional St. Stephen’s Day celebration Mass was held and the Procession of the Holy Right began. Cardinal Péter Erdő, Primate of Hungary and Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest, blessed the master bakers’ bread.

During the day visitors were able to sample Hungarian food and drink, organic confectionary and delicious bread from sixty bakeries on the ‘Avenue of Hungarian Flavours’, running between Clark Ádám tér and Bem József tér. Ox roasting and the cooking of Mangalitza (Hungarian ‘sheep pig’) pork chops were popular attractions, and there was genuine homemade squash at the stands. Master chef László Benke took on an unusual task when he prepared a four hundred-litre Budapest Lecsó (vegetable stew), and master confectioners from the National Guild of Hungarian Confectioners’ presented their ‘Hungary Cake’ for 2010 on the Avenue: an original Sulyán-style plum dumpling cake.

The celebration events of 2010 were held in a spirit of solidarity. The floods of the previous months had resulted in enormous destruction, with hundreds of people losing their homes and their hopes. The national day offered the opportunity to help those in need, and we launched several charity initiatives for this purpose. In the preceding weeks television and radio stations had played the ‘Solidarity Song’, performed by several well-known recording artists. Calls and SMSs to the 1749 charity hotline yielded more than HUF twenty million in donations, which was forwarded to those in need through five aid organisations. From 6 p.m. Lánchíd Radio presented a music request show on the Danube embankment for those who had come to see the firework display, and callers to the aid line donated HUF 200 per call to assist those in flood-stricken areas. Stallholders in the Avenue of Hungarian Flavours also contributed more than HUF 1.5 million from their income for the day to this cause.

The festive firework display which started at 9 p.m. was also held in a spirit of solidarity. A company from Szombathely, Kopula ’96 Kft, provided the pyrotechnics as part of the aid effort. The Solidarity Song was played on the Danube embankments in the minutes before the start of the firework display, and the hundreds of thousands gathered there were invited to light candles in those moments. All proceeds from the sale of candles – HUF 925,000 – went to those in need. A version of the song Áldás (‘Blessing’) – originally by the ensemble Henna, and transcribed by Edina Szirtes – was played during the twenty-minute pyrotechnic display, in which fireworks were launched from points not usually used in previous years. The government allocated the HUF 151 million saved as a result of the shorter, more economical display to the recovery effort and repair of public buildings in flood-hit areas.

On 20 August five hundred children from flood-affected areas were received in the capital by the Hungarian Government. The children were introduced to the beauties of the banks of the Danube on a boat excursion, and then they took part in the harvest procession and the celebration Mass. Following this they were taken to the castle district in Buda, where they were able to practice handicrafts at the Mesterségek Ünnepe Crafts Fair, and then they tasted 2010’s masterpieces of confectionary at the ceremonial cutting of the Hungary Cake, while festive fireworks glittered and blazed in the sky overhead.

Archive details of the 2010 programme can be reread by clicking on the menu points on the sidebar. For the latest information, please go to the main page. We wish you an entertaining and pleasant time at the celebration events.

In 2011the country will once more come together to celebrate Saint Stephen’s Day! Please come and join us!