Ireland has St. Patrick’s Day, Wales has St. David’s Day, Scotland has St. Andrew’s Day, but what does England have? St. George’s Day.
Every 23rd of April, people in England celebrate St George’s Day. St. George is England’s “patron saint” (a religious person who died and whose spirit protects the country). St. George is also the patron saint of the Caucasian country of Georgia, and the patron saint of the city of Barcelona, which explains why the countries’ flags are so similar (a red cross on a white background).
Strangely, the real St. George never visited England, so why is he the patron saint of England?
St George was born in modern-day Turkey and was a soldier in the Roman Army, but he was attacked verbally and physically for being a Christian at a time when the Romans were still worshipping Jupiter, Venus and Apollo. He was tortured and killed on the 23rd of April AD 303 after he refused to give up Christianity.
St. George was usually drawn killing a dragon, which represented the evil devil. The Italian writer and church leader in Genoa, Jacobus de Voragine first came up with the dramatic story of St George killing a dragon in his book ‘Golden Legend’. A dragon was protecting a well (a hole in the ground where we get water) and in order to get water, villagers had been planning to sacrifice a woman to keep the dragon happy. However, George kills the dragon, saving the village.
Many English soldiers believed that they had seen St George in a vision, fighting next to them, so English people began to view him as the protector of England. He was made patron saint of England in 1415 and the 23rd of April 23 was chosen, the day of his death.
St. George’s Day wasn’t very popular until recently. Many British people wanted to focus on their united British identity, but recently, English, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish people are beginning to connect with the identity of their individual countries, rather than the union.
These days, the Mayor of London (currently Sadiq Khan) celebrates St. George’s day by having a special exhibition at City Hall (the Mayor’s office). The exhibition will celebrate London’s history and heritage. Also, on Saturday, there will be the Feast of St George in Trafalgar Square. You will be able to find out about English history, eat traditional English food and see traditional English performers, song, dance and other activities.