Celebrate St George's Day

English national pride comes to the fore on April 23rd – a celebration of our patron saint St George, on the anniversary of his death. Many towns and villages around England will host parades and festivities to mark the occasion.

But how much do you know about St George?

It is thought that George was born in Cappadocia, now part of central Turkey. Although his story cannot be historically proven, it is believed he became a soldier in the Roman army until being sentenced to death in AD303 by the Emperor Diocletian for his refusal to carry out orders to persecute Christians. Some legends have it that he survived poison, flaying and being boiled alive before finally being beheaded. He was declared a martyr and recognised as a saint in AD496.

During the 12th century, long after his death, the now legendary story of St George and dragon surfaced. According to the legend, the town was terrorised by a fire-breathing dragon who demanded daily sacrifices. (In the middle ages, a dragon commonly symbolised evil). Having worked its way through the town’s animals, the dragon’s demands increased and every day the townspeople were forced to choose a maiden to sacrifice. On hearing this, George rode into the village, slayed the dragon and rescued the maiden. St George replaced St Edmund as England’s patron saint back in the 13th century, and represents principles such as honesty and courage, and the fight of good versus evil. Baden-Powell chose St George to be the patron saint of the scouts because “St George was typical of what a scout should be”.

St George’s day is no longer a public holiday in England since the 17th Century, although many argue for this to be reinstated, citing St Andrews Day and St Patrick’s Day which are bank holidays in Scotland and Ireland respectively. There have even been petitions to parliament to equalise the situation, however the most recent gathered less than 200 signatures.

So why not demonstrate some national pride, and join a St George’s Day celebration near you this April.