The largest traditional event in the Carpathian Basin welcomes tens of thousands of visitors with a huge yurt camp

Edited by Anna Popper

Ancestors’ Day is the largest traditional event in the Carpathian Basin. It is a three-day celebration taking place between 4-6 August 2023 in Bugac (part of the Great Hungarian Plain), 160 km south of Budapest, at one of the most beautiful Hungarian steppe areas on the outskirts of Kiskunság National Park in Hungary. This event has been an important occasion for the Hungarian people to remember and honour their historical ancestors and heroes, who played significant roles in shaping history, culture and collective identities, influencing cultural practices and creating a link between past, present and future generations.

The Ancestors’ Day celebration was launched in 2011 by the Hungarian Turan Non-profit Foundation, the purpose of which is to make a worthy memory of the Hungarians’ greatest ancestors, including Atilla the Hun, Grand Duke Árpád, the Great Commander, also the Huns, Avars and conquering Hungarians.

Ancestors’ Day has been a meaningful occasion that allows the Hungarian people to connect with their past and strengthen their cultural bond. The celebration is deeply rooted in Hungarian history and heritage, aiming to preserve, showcase and share the ancient traditions and customs of the Hungarian people. It is closely related to the Kurultaj, also known as the Assembly of Tribes, which is another traditional event organized by the Hungarian Turan Foundation.

History comes alive

During the three days of the Ancestors’ Day, the event area in Bugac is transformed into a large nomadic camp with over a hundred yurts, creating an evocative atmosphere reminiscent of the time of the Hungarian conquest. The program lineup, prepared by anthropologists, archaeologists, ethnographic researchers and historians, includes more than 50 various activities and performances, such as nomadic processions, combat demonstrations, equestrian competitions, archery programs, traditional sports contests, and presentations about the Hungarian-Hun-Avar heritage. The event also features professional exhibitions, folk music performances and Hungarian shaman-music shows by the best professional teams. The festive ambience of the large gathering is enhanced by handicraft displays, craft fairs, children’s programs and science-based lectures.

Rebirth of equestrian traditions and historical contests

Given Hungary’s horse-nomadic past, equestrian traditions play a central role in the celebration this year. The event emphasizes the revival and familiarization of the ancient Hungarian nomadic sports and equestrian fighting styles. Participants, Hungarian visitors and guests of related nations from abroad can enjoy a traditional army review, battle demonstrations, horse races and contests. In addition, a huge “nomadic accommodation” and a military camp will be set up as part of the event.

Nearly two decades dedicated to tradition preservation

The Ancestors’ Day has been a significant tradition-preserving event for almost two decades, thanks to the efforts and ideas of Zsolt András Bíró, an anthropologist-human biologist researcher associated with the Museum of Natural Sciences. He played a crucial role in organizing the first modern Kurultaj (Hungarian Tribal Assembly) – that was his initiative – in 2007, which has been a sister event to Ancestors’ Day, under the leadership of the Hungarian Turan Foundation.

In his message, Mr. Bíró drew attention to the primary objective of Ancestors’ Day, which is to pay tribute to the ancestors and heroes of the greatest history-shaping Hungarians with dignity and respect. It also seeks to preserve and share the most ancient Hungarian traditions to the general public through diverse and enjoyable programs for all ages. Participants can engage in activities that showcase the richness of their customs and heritage. The event also aims to fill a void in the Hungarian holiday schedule by providing an opportunity to remember and celebrate the rich customs and traditions together that have shaped the history of the Hungarian nation.

This celebration is likely to bring communities together, cherish their shared heritage, and help pass on these valuable traditions to future generations and keep them alive in modern times.

Source: Hungarian Turan Foundation

Photos by the Hungarian Turan Foundation (from Ancestors’ Day 2021)