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British Culture, British Customs and British Traditions

St George's Day - April 23rd

St George Flag


With dictionary look up - Double click on any word for its definition.
This section is in advanced English and is only intended to be a guide, not to be taken too seriously!

Cry God for Harry, England and Saint George! William Shakespeare (Henry V)

St George is also the patron saint of Aragon, Catalonia, Ethiopia, Georgia, Greece, Lithuania, Palestine, Portugal, and Russia.

This date is observed in memory of England's patron saint, St George so, in a sense, this is England's national day. although unlike many countries there is no official recognition of this in the form of a holiday (booh!). The emblem of St. George is a red cross on a white background, and in the 12th century the emblem was adopted by Richard The Lionheart whose soldiers wore it on their tunics to avoid confusion in battle.

He has been associated with England since the reign of Edward III in the fourteenth century allegedly replacing Edward the Confessor. Edward chose St George to be patron saint of the Order of the Garter-- the highest order of English knighthood. Historians feel his promotion as patron saint is mainly due to his popularity among English crusaders who eventually used his name as a battle cry during the Hundred Years War.

According to history the real St. George was a cavalryman who lived in the 4th century. Allegedly born in what is now called Turkey, he died a martyr's death in 303 A.D. for protesting against the persecution of Christians when Rome was governed by an anti-Christian emperor, Diocletian. He was buried in Lydda, Palestine (now called Lod).

St George is the subject of many legends, including a story that first appeared in the 6th century telling us that St. George rescued a hapless maid by slaying a fearsome fire-breathing dragon! This is how he is always depicted in pictures. Although once a very prominent holy day in the Christian calendar, St George's Day is today celebrated mainly by special parades and rallies. On this day , the flag of St George (a red cross on white background) is flown from church towers and many other buildings. Also St George's symbol is the English rose and so a rose is what many Englishmen wear in their lapels to mark the day.

The saint's name was shouted as a battle cry by English knights who fought beneath the red-cross banner of St. George during the Hundred Years War (1338-1453).

This is immortalised in Shakespeare's play Henry V in the lines:-
'I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start. The game's afoot:
Follow your spirit; and, upon this charge
Cry "God for Harry! England and Saint George!"'

There are some people - notably publicans and brewers - who want to see St George's Day made into a national holiday marked with greater ceremony and, let's face it, alcohol. If Patrick is the patron saint of Guinness, why not cry St George for English bitters?

Interesting Links

Find out what is happening to celebrate St George's Day here

British Culture