“Cry God for Harry, England and Saint George!” William Shakespeare (Henry V)
Although it is not a big event or a national holiday, St. George’s Day is celebrated on 23 April each year in England in honour of St. George, the patron saint of England. His emblem, a red cross on a white background, is the flag of England, and part of the British flag. St. George’s emblem was adopted by Richard The Lion Heart and brought to England in the 12th century. The king’s soldiers wore it on their tunics to avoid confusion in battle.
St. George is popularly identified with England and English ideals of honour, bravery and gallantry, but actually he wasn’t English at all. Very little is known about the man who became St. George.
Quick Facts about St. George:
Born in Turkey (in Cappadocia)
Lived in 3rd century
His parents were Christian
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 on 23 April 303
In 1222, the Council of Oxford declared 23 April to be St. George’s Day and he replaced St Edmund the Martyr as England’s patron saint in the 14th century. In 1415, 23 April was made a national feast day.
St. George is also patron saint of scouts, soldiers, archers, cavalry and chivalry, farmers and field workers, riders and saddlers, and he helps those suffering from leprosy and plague.
How will you be celebrating St. George’s Day?
Will you fly the flag of St. George? Pin a red rose to your lapel? Will you host a tea party? Maybe you will use St. George’s Day to learn about some of England’s customs and traditions, and to think about knights and castles and dragons! Will you visit a castle? Spare a thought, too, for one of England’s most famous men, William Shakespeare, who was not only born on 23rd April 1564 but also died on 23rd April 1616.
Happy St. George’s Day!