Happy St. George’s Day. My Mum asked if I was putting a photo together for St George’s Day for Facebook as I had the other patron saint’s days. I thought that I must as it is England’s national day, I knew our symbol was the red rose but I’m not sure why. We never celebrated it at school and I must admit that I knew very little about what should be a celebration of all things “English”. I knew more about America’s Independence Day, 4th July, and other celebrated nation days such as St Patricks Day, Ireland, St Andrew’s Day, Scotland and St David’s Day, Wales. It seems that St George’s day usually passes by in England without so much as a whimper.
There was a survey last year in the Daily Telegraph that found only 40% of English people were able to identify St George’s Day as falling on April 23rd, compared with 71% who could give July 4th as the American national holiday. 75% of those polled said that the Irish saint’s day is more widely celebrated in Britain than St George’s Day. The good news was that the appetite to celebrate it rose to 76% of those questioned who wanted to celebrate their national identity.
A Little Bit Of Background
Though there is very little factual information about St George there seems to be several interesting things reported about him. Here is what I found out :
Saint George is the patron saint of England. He’s popularly identified with England and English ideals of honour, bravery and gallantry – but actually he wasn’t English at all. Very little, if anything, is known about the real Saint George. Pope Gelasius said that George is one of the saints “whose names are rightly reverenced among us, but whose actions are known only to God.”
Everything about Saint George has been passed down through the generations, so the information below should be taken as mythical rather than real.
• Born in Cappadocia, an area which is now in Turkey
• Lived in 3rd century AD
• His parents were Christian
• Later lived in Palestine
• Became a Roman soldier
• Protested against Rome’s persecution of Christians
• Imprisoned and tortured, but stayed true to his faith
• Beheaded at Lydda in Palestine
• 23rd April was named as Saint George’s day in 1222
He is patron saint not only of England but also of Aragon, Catalonia, Georgia, Lithuania, Palestine, Portugal, Germany and Greece; and of Moscow, Istanbul, Genoa and Venice (second to Saint Mark). He’s 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. In recent years he has been adopted as patron saint of Scouts.
I am not sure why St George is always associated with the slaying of a dragon but the imagery of a Knight all in white slaying a dragon to save the fair damsel in distress is right up my street as a girl brought up on Disney cartoons.
I am not sure why the government over the years has so actively discouraged the celebration of St George’s day but I do hope that future generations will not allow this tradition to die out. We should be proud of our English traditions and learn to love and celebrate them, after all everyone loves a good party.
Wherefore art thou, Shakespeare ?
Talking of English celebrations by coincidence the 23rd April was the date that William Shakespeare died and this year it is the 450th anniversary of his birth in 1564. There is a little disagreement about the actual date of his birth and the romantic in me would go for the 23rd April although the date of his baptism was recorded as the 26th April 1564.
Most people are aware of his great works and literary masterpieces here are a few common sayings that are used all the time that were penned by the great bard:
A laughing stock (The Merry Wives of Windsor)
A sorry sight (Macbeth)
As dead as a doornail (Henry VI)
Eaten out of house and home (Henry V, Part 2)
Fair play (The Tempest)
I will wear my heart upon my sleeve (Othello)
In a pickle (The Tempest)
In stitches (Twelfth Night)
In the twinkling of an eye (The Merchant Of Venice)
Mum’s the word (Henry VI, Part 2)
Neither here nor there (Othello)
Send him packing (Henry IV)
Set your teeth on edge (Henry IV)
After reading several articles about the great writer these quotes stuck in my mind:
“This above all else: To thine own self be true.”
“Nothing ventured, nothing gain.”
“It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves..”
Here is a video of a beautiful song “Sweet Chance, That Led My Steps Abroad” composed by Michael Head a great English composer which I thought lent itself well to this celebration of all things English.