Festivals & Events

Festivals & Events

List of public holidays

Date English name Local name Remarks
1 January New Year's Day Újév According to tradition, lentil soup eaten on this day makes people wealthy, rolling out strudel dough guarantees long life, eating poultry will make luck "fly away".
15 March National Day Nemzeti ünnep Memorial day of the 1848 Revolution (which aimed the independence of the Hungarian Kingdom from the Austrian Empire). There are usually speeches and music pieces (e.g. Nemzeti dal) performed; many people wear a cockade with the national colours (red, white and green).
Moveable EasterSunday Húsvétvasárnap  
Moveable EasterMonday Húsvéthétfő Men visit women to sprinkle them with perfume (or in the countryside, sometimes water), first asking permission by reciting a verse. In return, the women give the men eggs (sometimes painted, sometimes chocolate). Children receive chocolate eggs (sometimes fruits and nuts, chocolate rabbits), from the Easter Bunny; these gifts are sometimes hidden in the garden or house. (Real rabbits are sometimes gifted.) The day's meal is often ham, eggs, and sweetbreads for dinner.
1 May Labour day A munka ünnepe The countries of the EU are represented with special programmes, bridges are decorated and exhibitions are held. Labour Day coincides with May Day (majális); many attend outdoor festivities in public parks. Since 2004 it is also the anniversary of the accession to the EU.
Moveable PentecostSunday Pünkösdvasárnap Sunday, 49 days after Easter
Moveable PentecostMonday Pünkösdhétfő Monday after Pentecost
20 August State Foundation Day Az államalapítás ünnepe Hungary's first king St. Stephen's Day, also the day of the Foundation of Hungary and "the day of the new bread". St. Stephen of Hungary (Szent István király in Hungarian) (ca. 975 – 15 August 1038), as the first king of Hungary, led the country into the Christian church and established the institutions of the kingdom and the church. He was canonized on 20 August 1083, and 20 August is his feast day.Celebrated with a half-hour fireworks display on the bank of the Danube in the evening, which is attended by many people on both river banks and is watched by many from the hills on the Buda side of the river and from the rooftops of both Pest and Buda.
23 October National Day Nemzeti ünnep Memorial day of the 1956 Revolution (which – inter alia – aimed at the departure of the Soviet troops from Hungary and free elections). Also the day of the proclamation of the Third Hungarian Republic (1989). Celebrated with speeches and exhibitions.
1 November All Saints Day Mindenszentek Day of remembrance of the dead. Graves in Christian cemeteries are decorated with flowers and candles, by family and friends of the dead.
25 December Christmas Karácsony Public transport stops operating at about 4 pm on the 24th ("Szenteste") as most families gather to celebrate, placing presents under a Christmas tree which has been decorated while the children are away from the house. Presents are then opened and a large meal eaten in celebration of the event. On 25th and 26th, people usually visit relatives.
26 December Second Day of Christmas Karácsony másnapja  

Remembrance days endorsed by the state

Remembrance Days are working days in Hungary.

Date English name Local name Remarks
1 February Memorial Day of the Republic A köztársaság emléknapja Commemorating the law (1946. évi I. törvény) on the proclamation of the republic in 1946, memorial day since 2006.
25 February Memorial Day for the Victims of the Communist Dictatorships A kommunista diktatúrák áldozatainak emléknapja On this day in 1947 Béla Kovács, Secretary-General of the Independent Smallholders' Partywas arrested and deported to the Soviet Union. Memorial day since 2000, commemorations are held in high schools.
16 April Memorial Day for the Victims of the Holocaust A holokauszt áldozatainak emléknapja On this day in 1944 the Jews of Subcarpathiawere rounded up and forced into ghettos. Memorial day since 2001, commemorations are held in high schools.
21 May National Defense Day Honvédelmi nap Battle of Buda (1849)
4 June Day of National Unity A nemzeti összetartozás napja Commemorating the anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Trianon, when the Kingdom of Hungary lost 72% of its territory. National memorial day since 2010.
19 June Day of the Independent Hungary A független Magyarország napja Commemorating the execution of the martyrs of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution (on 16 June 1958), and the anniversary of the end of the Soviet occupation of Hungary. Memorial day since 2001.
6 October Memorial Day for the Martyrs of Arad Az aradi vértanúk emléknapja Commemorating the anniversary of the 1849 execution of the 13 Martyrs of Arad after the defeat of the Hungarian Independence War. National memorial day, commemorations are held in high schools.

Holidays not endorsed by the state

Date English Name Local Name Remarks
8 March International Women's Day Nemzetközi nőnap Women get flowers and gifts from their employers and schoolchildren often bring gifts for their teachers.
6 December Santa Claus, Saint Nicholas Day Mikulás, Télapó On this day, every Hungarian child polishes his or her boots and puts them in the window. Mikuláscomes in the night and fills them with chocolates and/or small presents. If they were bad, they might get sticks instead of, or as well as, presents.
31 December New Year's Eve Szilveszter Young people go partying until morning. Streets are noisy with paper trumpets, hoots and the pop of champagne corks; people often wear masks and throw petards. Those who stay home usually watch comedies made for the occasion; at midnight they drink champagne and wish each other good luck for the new year. National television channels broadcast orchestral and choral national anthem at midnight, and then the speech of the President. Firework displays are common. The next day streets are as empty as ever, and people sleep long (or sleep themselves sober). Lentils are eaten, symbolising coins for good luck.
Moveable Carnival Farsang A six-day regional carnival, originally celebrated by the Šokci (ethnic-Croatians) living in the town of Mohács. Traditions include folk music, masquerading, parades and dancing.

Special events

Hungary's most notable annual events include the Budapest Spring Festival (mid-march to mid-April), Hortobágy Equestrian Days (late June), Sopron Early Music Days (late June), Festival in Budapest (late June), Miskolc Opera Festival (late June), Miskolc Kalálka International Folk Festival (July), Győr Summer Festival (late June), Győr Summer Cultural Festival (late June to late July), Pannon Festival in Pécs (July and August), Szentendre Summer Festival (July), Kőszeg Street Theatre Festival (late July), Savaria International Dance Competition in Szombathely (July), Debrecen Jazz Days (July), Szeged Open Air Festival (mid-July to August), Diáksziget (shorter: "Sziget" or "Sziget Festival", Student Island or Pepsi Island) north of Budapest (August), Eger Wine Harvest Festival (September), and Budapest Autumn Arts Festival (mid-September to mid-October).

St Stephen's Day (August 20) is celebrated with sporting events, parades and fireworks nationwide. On the same day there is a Floral Festival in Debrecen and a Bridge Fair in nearby Hortobágy. Formula 1 car races are held in early August at the Hungaroring near Mogyoród, 18 km northeast of Budapest.

Budapest events

Month Event name Date Type
March The Spring Uprising 15 Mar A public holiday marks the day in 1848 when the youth of Buda, led by the poet Sándor Petőfi, rebelled against the Habsburg occupation of Hungary, Thousands of people take to the streets to lay wreaths and light eternal flames, wearing the national colours of red, white and green. There are speeches and street theatre, especially in front of the Hungarian National Museum.
March Spring Festival the last two weeks of Mar-mid. Apr. Top national and international musicians gather for several weeks of music and dance in churches and concert halls all over Budapest. The emphasis of the festival is on the classical tradition, but also in evidence are hungarian folk music and dance, as well as pop and jazz.
April World Dance Festival end of April The National Dance Theatre and the Association of Hungarian Dance Artists organize this festival every year, with participation from top Hungarian dance groups and foreign guest artists. Castle Theatre, Erkel Theatre, the Light Opera Theatre and the Hungarian State Opera House hold the events.
April Horse Racing Sundays Apr–Oct. April sees the beginning of the flat-racing season. Place your bets at the busy and charmingly down-at-heel Kincsem Park race course on Albertirsai út.
May May Day 1 May No longer a compulsory display of patriotism, May Day celebrations take place in public parks all over the city and involve craft markets, street performers and sausage and beer tents. A dip in the local thermal bath or swimming pool is another popular May Day activity.
May Concerts in St Stephen's Basilica May–Oct Thursday evening organ concerts in the city's largest church provide a perfect opportunity to study the lavish interior decoration of this extraordinary building.
June Open-Air Theatre Festival Jun–Aug Margaret and Óbuda Islands provide two of the major venues for this summer-long, open-air arts festival.
June Budapesti Búcsú last weekend in Jun A mixture of music, dance and theatre celebrates the departure from Hungary of Soviet troops in 1991.
July Hungarian Grand Prix end of July The biggest event in the Hungarian sporting calendar takes place east of the city, at Mogyoród race track.
July Chain Bridge Festival weekends of Jul–Aug A lively series of free events including concerts and dance, traditional arts and crafts, street theatre, parades and activities for children.
July Budapest Summer Opera and Ballet Festival Jul or Aug Look out for the ten-day series of shows that makes up the summer season at the Hungarian State Opera House.
August St István's Day 20 Aug St István, the patron saint of Hungary, is celebrated with mass in St Stephen's Basilica followed by a huge procession. The day ends with fireworks on Gellért Hill and along the Danube.
August Sziget Festival Aug Ten stages and a camp site are set up on Óbuda Island for this popular week-long festival of rock, folk and jazz.
September Budapest Wine Festival 2nd week of Sept After the late-August grape harvest, wine makers set up their stalls for wine tastings and folk dancing on Buda's Castle Hill and in squares around the city.
October Spar Budapest International Marathon and Running Festival Oct There is a marathon, a relay race, a mini-marathon and a family running competition for participants. Concerts and events are held for spectators.
October Autumn Festival middle of Oct. Several weeks of contemporary film, dance and theatre at venues across the city.
November Budapest Christmas Fair 26 Nov- 24 Dec. The Budapest Christmas Market transforms Vörösmarty Square into a festive marketplace, where Hungarian artists and craftsmen display their work and national dishes are served.
January New Year's Gala Concert 1 Jan This cheerful occasion is an excellent way to start the new year. Outstanding Hungarian and foreign artists perform excerpts from European opera and musicals, providing a lively evening of music.
February Hungarian Film Festival early Febr. This two-day celebration of Hungarian film has been run by the Magyar Filmszemle since 1969, to attract funding to a hard-pressed industry. Many films are subtitled.
February Masked-Ball Season Febr. Budapest forgets the cold weather to welcome the coming spring, and the arrival of the farsang, fancy dreass masked-ball season. The climax of the season is the spectacular Opera Ball and a masked procession, on the last Saturday and Sunday before Lent, respectively.

Budapest Spring Festival

Designed to fit the needs of Budapest's cultural heritage and its requirements as a modern Central European centre, this metropolitan festival was instituted in 1981. By presenting and disseminating cultural assets it boosts the city's image and encourages dynamic development of its cultural tourism. This "festival of festivals", traditionally covering a range of artistic fields, presents a series of homogeneous artistic activities to which international professional symposia are linked. The Budapest Spring Festival takes place in the last two weeks of March. Its main emphasis is on those symphony orchestra concerts, opera and ballet performances which will appeal to the widest audience, but the program also includes open-air events and an Operetta Festival. The performances take place in the capital's most important concert halls and theatres, and often near historic monuments. Over the years a number of regional towns have been included in the Budapest Spring Festival – Debrecen, Gödöllő, Győr, Kaposvár, Kecskemét, Sopron, Szentendre and Szombathely – and thus it has more or less expanded into a national festival. The list of events always includes renowned foreign guests as well as distinguished artists and groups from the Hungarian musical life. Highlights include classical concerts, productions at the Opera House, open-air events, the Operetta Festival, the Dance House Convention, the Dance Panorama, and what are considered to be the real treat, the exhibitions.

Haydn Festival in Eszterháza

Haydn at Eszterháza: During its first quarter century, the palace was the primary home of the celebrated composer Joseph Haydn, who wrote the majority of his symphonies for the Prince's orchestra. Starting in 1768, the theater was a major venue for opera, often with more than a hundred performances per year. The palace was geographically isolated, a factor which led to loneliness and tedium among the musicians. This is seen in some of Haydn's letters, as well as in the famous tale of the Farewell Symphony

The basic aim of the festival is to evoke the musical paradise that Eszterháza was in Haydn's time, within the original walls, with the help of period instruments and performing practice. The programmes focus mainly on the works composed during the Eszterháza period of Haydn's creative life, and among these, on compositions belonging to the most important genres (symphonies, string quartets, keyboard sonatas and trios). In addition, however, the concert programmes regularly include works by the "unknown Haydn" (baryton pieces, rarely heard church compositions, wind divertimenti, etc.). The festival aims to provide opportunities for the world's most outstanding Haydn performers to meet here, to gain inspiration from the atmosphere and acoustics of the place, and to inspire one another through shared music-making. The majority of the performers play only compositions by Joseph Haydn, but also in exceptional cases other works closely connected, either directly or through their composers, with Haydn, Eszterháza or the family of the Esterházy princes – such as, for example, the string quartets dedicated to Haydn by Mozart, and certain pieces by Michael Haydn (the composer's younger brother), Luigi Tomasini (leader of the Eszterháza orchestra) and others. The venue for most of the concerts is the enchantingly beautiful ceremonial hall of the palace, which has superb acoustics. Some of the more intimate, solistic performances are given in the sala terrena, the central hall of the original, smaller, Renaissance hunting palace. Some concerts of church music take place in one or other of the churches in the nearby villages.

Győr Summer Festival

This festival is held annually, from the second week in June to the second week in July. The Győr Summer International Cultural Festival, which displays Győr's cultural heritage, has a history of over three decades. The list of events, which covers a wide range of genres, is based on a series of separate activities. Every year, for a month in June and July, the Baroquedecorations of the city centre, its atmospheric courtyards and the banks of the Rába river are home to the International Ballet Festival, the International Puppet and Street Theatre Convention, the International Folk Dancing and Folk Music Festival, and the International Handcraft Fair and Exhibition. In addition to the performances of the hosts – the Győr Ballet, the Győr National Theatre, and the Győr Philharmonic Orchestra – visitors can also see those of the visiting theatre companies and musical groups.

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