23 April 2008

St George's Day

Today England "celebrates" it's patron saint's day. Hardly a celebration in this country, and I didn't really know much until I researched for this post, so here are a few facts about St George and the day itself:

:: As well as England there are a number of other places that have St George as their patron saint: Bulgaria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Portugal, Serbia, , and the Republic of Macedonia, as well as the Spanish region of Catalonia and the city of Moscow (though they don't all celebrate on the same day due to differences in the Julian and Gregorian calendar).

:: Though nothing is certain, St George was thought to have been born in what is now Turkey, to Christian parentage in the third century. He moved to Palestine with his mother after his father died and became a soldier. The Roman emperor of the time, Diocletian, was strictly anti-Christian, and when George told the emperor that he was too harsh on Christians he was imprisoned for seven years. After not denouncing his faith he was beheaded at Lydda in Palestine.

:: Though never to have even visited England, George became patrol saint of the country after a minor feast day was bestowed for him by the Oxford diocese in 1222. It wasn't until the end of the 14th century that he was elevated to patron saint status and in 1415, Archbishop Chichele ordered St George's Day to be observed like Christmas Day.

:: St George's cross, the flag of England, was adopted as far back as king Richard I and represents his martyrdom.

:: The legend of George slaying a dragon and rescuing a fair maiden is one of the many medieval "romance" stories. No evidence has ever been found that it was based on truth!

:: It is tradition to wear a red rose on your lapel on St George's Day.

:: Many English churches have the tradition of singing the hymn Jerusalem on the Sunday closest to St George's Day.

:: The Scouts is one of the few institutions that actually dose any celebrating for St George's Day.
:: Shakespeare was born and died on St George's Day. This fact has been the main arguments for making April 23 a public holiday in England to bring the number of public holidays closer to the level of holidays in the rest of the union and Europe.

:: Diada de Sant Jordi in Catalan, it is tradition to give gifts of a rose and a book. Because of this (and Shakespeare's birthday) UNESCO declared 23 April International Day of the Book.


Eamon said...

It's bizarre the associations made with patron saints such as St George and the dragon.
I like St Nicholas who was a bishop from modern day Turkey (lots of Christmasy snow there) and who is remembered by pawn brokers by three golden balls for being involved in the miracle of bringing back to life three children who were discovered picked in a barrel of brine (hence his assocation with children) ..

Mary said...

Thanks for visiting my blog!

I noticed St George’s Day greeting cards in the shops this year. I’m not sure if this is a new phenomenon, and wonder who would buy them. Unfortunately, I think of the BNP!