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Monday, 23 April 2007

Happy St. George's Day!

Today (April 23rd) is St. George's Day and, as he is the patron saint of England, it is also England's national day. However it is only by chance that I found out it was today (on the internet) because like 80 percent of the English population, I normally don't know when it is. In fact, 25 percent of English people don't even know who the patron saint is!


St. George's emblem, a red cross on a white background, is the flag of England, and part of the British flag. This emblem was adopted by Richard The Lion Heart and brought to England in the 12th century. The king's soldiers wore it to avoid confusion in battle.

Saint George is popularly identified with England and English ideals of honour, bravery and gallantry, but actually he wasn’t English at all. In fact, very little is known about the man who became St George.

Some Facts about St George

St. George is believed to have been born in Cappadocia (now Eastern Turkey) in the year A.D. 270. He was a Christian. At the age of seventeen he joined the Roman army and soon became renowned for his bravery. He served under a pagan Emperor but never forgot his Christian faith.

The Emperor Diocletian gave him many important missions, and it is thought that on one of these he came to England. It was while he was in England that he heard the Emperor was putting all Christians to death and so he returned to Rome to help his brother Christians. He pleaded with the Emperor to spare their lives. Diocletian did all he could to persuade St. George to give up his faith, but he refused and was finally beheaded on 23 April, 303.

In 1222, the Council of Oxford declared April 23 to be St George’s Day and he replaced Edward the Confessor as England’s patron saint in the 14th century. In 1415, April 23 was made a national feast day .

Patron Saint

St George is patron saint not only of England but also of Aragon, Catalonia, Georgia, Lithuania, Palestine and Portugal amongst others, although he is celebrated on different days.

St George is also patron saint of soldiers, archers, cavalry and chivalry, farmers and field workers, riders and saddlers, and he helps those suffering from leprosy, plague and syphilis.

The Dragon-Slayer

The most famous legend of Saint George is of him slaying a dragon. In the Middle Ages the dragon was commonly used to represent the Devil. The slaying of the dragon by St George was first credited to him in the twelfth century, long after his death. It is therefore likely that the many stories connected with St George's name are fictitious.

There are many versions of story of St George slaying the dragon, but most agree on the following:

A town was terrorised by a dragon A young princess was offered to the dragon and when George heard about this he rode into the village, slayed the dragon and rescued the princess.

St George is always depicted as a knight carrying a shield with a red cross (or a banner with a red cross), generally sitting upon a horse and always killing a dragon.


How does England celebrate St George's Day?

By tradition, April 23rd is the day for a red rose in the button hole, the national flower. However, unlike other countries, England does not celebrate it like Americans celebrate 4 July with fireworks. In fact, you are more likely to see big St Patrick parades in England celebrating Ireland's National Day, more than you would see any sign of St Georges Day being celebrated. This was certainly true in Manchester in 2003, when St George's Day was virtually ignored soon after the biggest St Patrick's Day Celebrations in the city's history.

For most people in England St George's Day is just another ordinary day. Sad but true...


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