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St George Cross

A dragonslayer who never visited England: Why do we celebrate St George's Day?

  • Who was St George
  • What did the dragon have to do with anything
  • How England celebrates St George's Day

While most news websites in England might give you an English person's take on St Patrick's Day, this one will give you an Irishman's take on St George's Day.

Today is the day people in England remember and celebrate their patron saint, St George who it is historically presumed may have been a soldier in the Middle East named Giorgios.

He was born in Turkey and was martyred in Palestine and is also the patron saint of Georgia (unsurprisingly), Catalonia, Lithuania, Palestine, Istanbul and a number of other places in Europe and West Asia.

The Roman Emperor at the time of his existence, Diocletian, was persecuting Christians and George (Giorgios) apparently refused to give up his Christian faith, despite knowing what fate awaited him. He may have been tortured for years, was allegedly brought back to life several times, but either way was eventually martyred for Christianity.

St George
A depiction of the dragon slaying

The legend about the dragon went somewhat like this - a city in modern day Libya was tormented by such a beast, to which its inhabitants gave up their children to be eaten by it. One day the King's child was demanded by the dragon, but George turned up in the nick of time and promised to rid the city of the beast if they converted to Christianity. Even in ye olde times the ruling classes were avoid making sacrifices, while putting it on the poor to pick up the slack...

So, why is he the patron saint of England?

His values resonated with English historical values and his international sensibility appealed to an expanding and pioneering Britain. It is somewhat ironic that St George's Day has been since exploited by isolationists and racists. St George would have probably been quite bemused at seeing his cross painted on the faces of the so-called English Defence League.

St George's Day is celebrated with Morris dancing, mummer's plays and Punch and Judy shows. Again, Brits seem to show contempt for all of these forms of entertainment. I must say I'm confused by this, you all seem to hate yourselves slightly less than you hate everyone else. Madness!

Labour have pledged to make patron saint days public holidays, so if they get into power we'd have March 1st (St David), March 17th (St Patrick) and November 30th (St Andrew) off as well as April 23rd each year. Would you put up with Morris dancing for that?

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