There is a common saying in Hungary that goes: “Who likes flowers, can’t be a bad man”. Well, if we are to believe this statement, the city of Debrecen gathers hundreds of thousands of nice people every year for one week at the time of the most significant Hungarian National Day. What do I mean exactly, you might ask? Large flower compositions, a whole host of tourists and performers at uncountable programs during a busy seven-day-long cultural festival including a floral procession in one of the most iconic Hungarian cities is what I mean. It is called the Flower Carnival of Debrecen, or Debreceni Virágkarnevál if you like, a more than a 50-year-old tradition in Hungary. Still, many have yet to see it in person - and some to even hear about it for the first time.
The floral procession has been held since 1966, meaning that it celebrated its 50th birthday just a couple of years ago. However, some sources suggest that locals’ admiration for flowers is dating back to even before that. As for the exact day of the spectacular show that attracts a tremendous amount of people, it is regularly held on the 20th of August each year. The particular occasion for this event relates to Hungary’s National Day, which is the date of the canonization of the very first Hungarian king, Saint Stephen I. Besides the well-known one-hour fireworks in Budapest, the Flower Carnival of Debrecen counts as the most distinctive event that commemorates the Hungarian nation and the foundation of the state.
I am pretty sure that, as a tourist, you are rather curious about the details of the floral procession and the carnival’s relating programs. Participants and organizers generally begin the preparations two to three weeks before the carnival the latest. Every year, around 15 trucks of flower compositions drive across the city of Debrecen, and after the procession, everyone is free to admire the magnificent creations at the city’s stadium. Believe it or not, but a whopping three million flowers are used year by year to create these overwhelming works of art, and it requires 30-40 people to prepare each truck that carries them. Usually, the trucks are covered in so many colourful flowers, that it is even hard to tell if these attention-grabbing sights are self-propelled or ingenious illusions.
Considering that we are partly talking about live cut flowers, it is essential to decorate the trucks at the latest possible time. Therefore, the flowers are put in place only on the evening of the 19th of August. We can only imagine the sedulous work that the enthralling final results demand. Each year, the Holy Crown is traditionally the opening truck, with other compositions always featuring a fairy tale and different themes, such as environmental protection and equality, for instance. The sister cities of Debrecen, like Oradea, Paderborn, Saint Petersburg or Setubal etc. are regularly invited to show off their representatives’ skills with their own trucks. Beyond the floral procession, numerous children's programs, concerts, as well as theatrical performances, and even an arena show make for the beautiful and busy week in Debrecen. The city has a population of 200000, but it's no wonder that there are around half a million people at the time of the carnival. If you are curious about other Hungarian carnivals too, check out Busójárás at its best.
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