There are many countries who celebrate St Georges day on the 23rd of April, which is believed to be his date of death in the year 303.
These countries include England, Bulgaria, Canada, Catalonia, Croatia, Portugal, Cyprus, Greece, Georgia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the Republic of Macedonia. Cities include Moscow in Russia, Genova in Italy, Ljubljana in Slovenia, Beirut in Lebanon, Qormi and Victoria in Malta and many others. It is also celebrated in the old Crown of Aragon in Spain—Aragon, Catalonia, Valencia, and Majorca.
- Palestinians celebrate in the Monastery of St George in al-Khader, near Bethlehem.
- Georgia celebrates the feast St. George on 23 April and 10 November (Julian Calendar), which currently falls on 6 May and 23 November (Gregorian Calendar), respectively.
- The Russian Orthodox Church celebrates the dedication of the Church of St George in Kiev by Yaroslav I the Wise in 1051 on 26 November (Julian Calendar), which currently falls on the Gregorian 9 December.
- In the General Calendar of the Roman Rite the feast of Saint George is on 23 April.
- St George’s feast is ranked higher in England and in certain other regions. It is the second most important National Feast in Catalonia, where the day is known in Catalan as La Diada de Sant Jordi and it is traditional to give a rose and a book to a loved one.
- UNESCO declared this day the International Day of the Book, since 23 April 1616 was the date of death of both the English playwright William Shakespeare (according to the Julian calendar) and the Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes (according to the Gregorian calendar).
When England joined with Scotland in the 18th century celebrations for St George took a back seat despite it being a major feast and national holiday in England on a par with Christmas from the early 15th century. It was in the year 1415 AD that St. George became the Patron Saint of England by English Soldiers under Henry V when he won the battle of Agincourt. 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 Massachusett. In more recent times a patriatism for all things English has become more popular again and despite forgetting many of the older traditions of red roses, flag flying and singing Jerusalem Boris Johnson (Lord Mayor of London) in 2006 called for everyone to celebrate St George again.
There have also been campaigns to replace St George who is Turkish by birth, one of the names suggested is St Alban. According to Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People, I.vii and xviii, Alban was a pagan living at Verulamium (now St Albans), who converted to Christianity, and was executed by decapitation on a hill above the Roman settlement of Verulamium. St Albans Abbey was later founded near this site.
Another would be Saint Cuthbert (c. 634 – 20 March 687) who was an Anglo-Saxon monk, bishop and hermit, associated with the monasteries of Melrose and Lindisfarne in the Kingdom of Northumbria. After his death he became one of the most important medieval saints of England, with a cult centred at Durham Cathedral. Cuthbert is regarded as the patron saint of northern England. His feast day is 20 March. He grew up near the new Melrose Abbey, an offshoot from Lindisfarne which is today in Scotland, but was then in Northumbria.
Whatever happens in the future and whether we continue to celebrate St George or another patron it would be nice to have a National English Day where we have a bank holiday. Scotland has St Andrew’s, Ireland has St Patrick’s and Wales has St David’s all bank holidays for their Patron Saints, so why has England not got one, it’s hardly un-politically correct?
And whilst we are waiting for polls to be taken and decisions to be made why not celebrate with an Afternoon Tea.