Saint George’s Day is the feast day of Saint George, and although I am wearing my England football top in honour of the day it is actually not just a day for the English. It is celebrated by various Christian churches and by the several nations of which Saint George is the patron saint. Countries that celebrate St George’s Day include England, Canada, Croatia, Portugal, Cyprus, Greece, Georgia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the Republic of Macedonia.
Saint George’s Day is celebrated on 23 April, the traditionally accepted date of Saint George’s death in AD 303. By coincidence it is also my Uncle’s birthday (Happy birthday Uncle Clive). The earliest documented mention of St George in England comes from the venerable Bede (c. 673–735). He is also mentioned in ninth-century liturgy used at Durham Cathedral. The will of Alfred the Great is said to refer to the saint, in a reference to the church of Fordington, Dorset. One of my sons has Alfred as a middle name, but this is just a happy coincidence.
In 1222 The Synod of Oxford declared St. George’s Day a feast day in the kingdom of England and Edward III (1327–1377) put his Order of the Garter (founded c. 1348) under the banner of St. George. This order is still the foremost order of knighthood in England and St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle was built by Edward IV and Henry VII in honour of the order. The badge of the Order shows Saint George on horseback slaying the dragon.
In his play Henry V, William Shakespeare famously invokes the Saint prior to the battle of Agincourt (1415) “Follow your spirit, and upon this charge Cry ‘God for Harry, England, and Saint George!’”
St George’s Day was a major feast and national holiday in England on a par with Christmas from the early 15th century. The Cross of St George was flown in 1497 by John Cabot on his voyage to discover Newfoundland and later by Sir Francis Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh. In 1620 it was the flag that was flown by the Mayflower when the Pilgrim Fathers arrived in Plymouth, Massachusetts. My relatives own Mayflower Engineering in Sheffield, that has the Mayflower ship as its logo, another happy coincidence.
The tradition of celebration St George’s day had waned by the end of the 18th century after the union of England and Scotland. In recent years the popularity of St George’s Day appears to be increasing, slowly but surely. The Conservative MP, Andrew Rosindell, has raised the issues in the House of Commons to make St George’s Day a public holiday and Mayor of London Boris Johnson encourages the celebration of St George’s Day.
A traditional custom on St George’s day was to wear a red rose in one’s lapel, however I could not find one this morning when getting dressed, so put my England football top on instead. Enjoy the day.
Tags: Saint George