St George's Day 2011
St George's Day - 23rd of April 2011
The patron saint of England - St George.
Despite the legend of Saint George slaying a dragon, St George was a real person. Historical records show that his father was a career soldier in the Roman army, while his mother was from Lydda (Lod) Israel. What is strange is that Saint George never actually set foot in England; he spent his life in what today we call Turkey and the Middle East.
As with many saints, it is Saint George's death on 23rd April in 303 AD that cements his anniversary in the calendar. Indeed, it was his gruesome death in Palestine, that was instrumental in the Catholic Church declaring St George an illustrious and Great Martyr. The precise date of St George's birth is not recorded, but it was believed to be in 275 AD, thus he lived for only 28 years.
If we fast-forward 900 years after St George's death as a martyr, we find that King Richard I (The Lionheart) adopted St George's cross as a uniform for his soldiers. A red cross on a white background was an ideal symbol for king Richard's crusade against Saladin and the Saracens.
What finalized the St George's cross as England's national flag, was it's adoption by king Henry V during his famous victory over the French at Agincourt in 1415.
One constant theme with St George is how un-English his connections appear. For example, like St George, King Richard spent little or no time in England, also king Henry V was often away from England fighting in Europe. Another example of how slow England was to adopt St George is that all the best middle age pictures and artefacts are from Greece or Russia. (See above a classic Russian picture of St George and the dragon with a Cyrillic inscription)
Interestingly, St George is also the patron saint of Canada, Greece, Portugal, and of course Georgia in Europe (near to his birthplace). In each case the legend of St George slaying the dragon is part of that country's folklore. However, England is one of the few countries that does not have a national holiday on its Saint's day. It is no surprise that the Greeks celebrate Agios Georgios (St George) with great festivals.
St George's Day Celebrations in England
What Will and Guy wonder is why St George's day STOPPED being celebrated in England, because from 1200 - 1700 it was fêted as a feast day. Even more bizarrely, at one time pubs could have an extension in England to celebrate St Patrick's day, but not St George's day.
When will England take St George's day to its heart again? Making 23rd of April a public holiday would help St George's day to catch people's attention.
Here below is a rare picture of a contemporary English celebration of St George's day. David Trepess took this photograph at East Hoathly, East Sussex on St George's Day 2007.
For those who do observe this most English day, the most tasteful emblem to announce this day to one and all, is a single red rose. The other place you see the red rose emblem is on the shirts of the England rugby team.
A long time ago, legend has it that a dragon came down from the mountains and terrorised the cattle and ate the crops. Moreover, the dragon would not stop his rampage unless the king tied a young maiden to an oak tree in the centre of the village.
At this point the king's nobles use a pigeon to decide what to do. If the bird flew to the east then, they must take the King's own daughter Sabra and tie her to a tree, as the dragon demanded. According to legend, the pigeon wings off to the east.
Crucially, the pigeon manages to attract the attention of a knight called Sir George and guide him back to the princess. Right on cue, just as the dragon was about to devour the princess, Sir George arrives and fights the dragon. He cunningly slows down the dragon by driving a ball of pitch down his throat, and then follows up by slaying the dragon with a spear, in traditional style.
By way of thanks for saving his daughter, and the village from the evil dragon, the king pronounced Sir George - Saint George. Moreover, he gave George a wonderful gold cross to wear. Even better, he gave his daughter Sabra's hand in marriage.
Note the dead dragon to be seen in the bottom right corner of Rosetti's famous wedding picture.
The legend of St George slaying the dragon resurfaces from time-to-time, especially around St George's day on 23rd April.
Matt goes into a shop which sells flags and asks for a green union jack.
The shop assistant has to explain to him that you only get union jack flags in red white and blue.
Matt considers for a while, then decides, 'I'll have a blue one then.'
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See more dates for 2011. Also check the day of the week for these festivals: