Hungary National Day is on August 20. We love public holidays anywhere in the world and this one is no exception. Come August each year and you’ll find the streets empty in Hungary. No one’s working; offices and universities are shut. It’s silent but still brimming with life because today is the country’s founding day. The day celebrates numerous people and events that helped create Hungary as we know it today. Fireworks, ceremonies, and flags abound. But what are the origins of this holiday? Depending on who you speak with, there could be numerous interpretations.
History of Hungary National Day
August 20 has multiple meanings for people in Hungary. You will find that people generally commemorate it as State Foundation Day. The story begins with St. Stephen – the first state founder and Hungarian king. After he died in 1038, St. Stephen became the first canonized saint. His reign marked an era of transformation in Hungary as the people converted to Christianity under his leadership; he believed it would strengthen Hungarian identity and pride. For these reasons and more, St. Stephen is considered the founder of Hungary.
Besides national pride, the day also has religious significance. Since St. Stephen was both a political leader and a canonized saint, Catholics in Hungary organize various masses to celebrate Hungary’s first patron saint.
It isn’t a holiday without food, of course! The date also marks the beginning of the festival of the New Bread. Festivities typically involve blessing, baking, and slicing a fresh loaf of bread. The ceremony is wildly popular across Hungary and even in nearby Transylvania.
How do the Hungarians celebrate August 20? Most people wear a set of green, red, and white ribbons. These three colors have deep meanings and symbolism. In fact, they’re as old as the country itself. Historically, Hungary’s leaders have used these colors to bring the people together. According to the Constitution, red stands for strength, green symbolizes hope, and white denotes national pride and allegiance.
State celebrations mark the day by hoisting the national flag, followed by cake carving. Afterward, the state distributes awards to the country’s most accomplished and dedicated citizens. August 20 has a special place in Hungarian history — a day that sets the stage for a unified and stronger state.
Hungary National Day timeline
‘Taltosism’ or shamanism practices dominate the Hungarian native faith.
Stephen, son of Géza, is born into the Árpád dynasty.
Pope Sylvester II ordains St. Stephen King of Hungary.
St. Stephen establishes an act that makes the church of Hungary independent from the Holy Roman empire.
Hungary National Day FAQs
What happened on the 20 of August in Hungary?
August 20 is an official national holiday in Hungary. The day marks key milestones in Hungarian history and culture.
What is Hungary's main religion?
Over 51% of the Hungarian population is Roman Catholic. The rest identify as Lutheran, Calvinists, or Greek Catholics.
What is Hungary's language?
Hungarian is the official language spoken here. The language has Uralic roots and is one of the E.U.’s 24 official languages.
Hungary National Day Activities
Visit historical sites
When in Hungary, visit the Parliament Building on Kossuth Square. It's where the flag hoisting takes place every year.
Learn about Hungary
Do you know about Hungary’s equestrian traditions? Or that most Nobel laureates are Hungarian? Deep dive into all things Hungarian today.
Have some goulash
A kettle-made goulash is as authentic as it gets. Find it at any Hungarian restaurant or try making it at home.
5 Facts About Budapest That Will Blow Your Mind
A tale of three cities
Budapest was born in 1973 after the merger of three cities: Buda, Pest, and Óbuda.
Buildings in Budapest cannot be taller than 314 feet.
Its metro line is UNESCO certified
The Budapest Millennium Underground is Europe’s second-oldest metro line.
Underneath the city is a web of 200 caverns attributed to geothermal activity.
A statue that helps writers
People believe that the statue of an anonymous chronicler in the city can bestow magical writing powers to budding writers.
Why We Love Hungary National Day
A day to read up
We love geeking out on history. Hungary National Day is the perfect opportunity to indulge. From its pagan origins to the imposition of Christianity, the history is beyond fascinating.
It expands our worldview
Understanding different cultures — even vicariously or online — can broaden anyone’s horizons. Many times, they offer windows into our own histories.
It celebrates Hungary
There’s so much to love about Hungary. The food, football, pubs, ornate architecture, the Bugaci horse riders – we could go on. Today is all about Hungary and its wonderful people.
Hungary National Day dates