January 22 – National Day of Hungarian Culture

On 22 January 1823 the great poet Ferenc Kölcsey completed the text of the Hungarian National Anthem. Since 1989 this date is celebrated as the National Day of Hungarian Culture and the history of the National Anthem is an example of the country’s diversity.

The official music for the anthem was composed by Ferenc Erkel as part of a competition in 1844. Erkel had German Catholic ancestry and the Anthem was first performed in the National Theatre conducted by Erkel himself. Larger audiences heard the Anthem on 10 August 1844 at the inaugural voyage of the steamship Széchenyi. Within years it became customary to sing Himnusz at special occasions.

Kölcsey was blind on one eye and lived a short life. He never married, yet wrote many romantic love letters and poems. Recent research by Krisztián Nyáry concludes that Kölcsey’s love poems were written to various men. This was suspected long before. His most romantic pieces were to his friend Pál Szemere who later married a woman, a remote relative of his, Krisztina Szemere.

The Hungarian National Anthem or Himnusz was translated to English by the Jewish American lawyer, William N. Loew (Lőw Vilmos) in 1881. Loew was born in Hungary, came to the US at age 19 and passionately translated and published hundreds of Hungarian poems. He was related to a famous rabbinical family at the Western-Hungarian city of Pápa.

The text of Hungarian National Anthem was written by a gay Calvinist, its music composed by a man with German Catholic ancestry and the English translation by a Jewish Hungarian-American. That is diversity!

Ferenc Kölcsey: Hymn (Poetic translation of the first verse by William N. Loew)

O, my God, the Magyar bless
With Thy plenty and good cheer!
With Thine aid his just cause press,
Where his foes to fight appear.
Fate, who for so long did’st frown,
Bring him happy times and ways;
Atoning sorrow hath weighed down
Sins of past and future days.

Enjoy the video version of the Hungarian National Anthem here.

György Lázár


  1. Avatar Don Hermiston says:

    Diversity is the last thing a nation needs. One need only look at the Islamic and African invasion of Europe today to realize diversity is not an attribute but a destructive force.

  2. Dear Mr. Censor;
    I have NOT written, stated, nor even suggested anything negative or wrong about anything!
    Have NOT even referred nor mentioned any kind of diversity or homosexuality at all.
    Just what objection could have you found in it?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *