So here it is: another opportunity for red-blooded English people to celebrate their favourite saint, St. George! You might be surprised to learn that 600+ years ago, it was a holiday on par with Christmas in the UK. Known to have defeated a dragon which almost certainly didn’t exist, St George was most famously killed for refusing to recant his Christian faith, effectively opening the door to sainthood.
Not just the patron saint of England!... St George is patron saint not only of England but also of Aragon, Catalonia, Georgia, Lithuania, Palestine and Portugal amongst others, although he is celebrated on different days. Most mark the date as the English have used since 1222 - April the 23rd - but others such as the Eastern Orthodox Church and Russian Orthodox Church cite the Saint George’s Day as May the 6th and November the 23rd respectively. In Georgia, the St George Cross features prominently in the country’s flag though contrary to popular belief, the nation wasn’t named after the man himself.
La Diada de Sant Jordi... Catalonia’s celebrations on the 23rd seem to combine Valentine’s Day with St George. The main event is the exchange of gifts between loved ones. Historically, men gave women roses, and women gave men a book to celebrate the occasion: ”a rose for love and a book forever.” Nowadays the mutual exchange of books is customary. Roses have been associated with this day since medieval times, but the giving of books started in 1923, as a bookseller started to promote the holiday as a way to honour the nearly simultaneous deaths of Miguel Cervantes (author of Don Quixote) and William Shakespeare on April 23, 1616.
St George and the Scouts... St George is also the patron saint of the Scout movement. Many Scout troops take part in a St George’s Day Parade on the nearest Sunday to April the 23rd. A message from the Chief Scout is read out and the Scout Hymn is sung. A ‘renewal of promise’ then takes place where the Scouts renew the Scout’s Promise made at joining and at all Scout meetings. Some schools around the UK also allow students to wear their scouting uniforms in replace of their school uniforms for that one day.
St George is 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
Hymn of Saint George Commonly sung in the Eastern Orthodox Church is the Hymn of St. George:
“Liberator of captives, and defender of the poor, physician of the sick, and champion of kings, O trophy-bearer, and Great Martyr George, Intercede with Christ our God that our souls be saved.”