How the dragon-slayer became the patron saint of England

Why do the English celebrate St George?

St George became a legendary figure in English history due to his courage and bravery – however he never actually set foot in England. The country adopted him as his patron saint, with April 23 being chosen as the date of celebration to mark his death.

King Edward III established the Order of the Garter in his name around 1348, but it wasn’t until the 14th Century that St George was regarded as a special protector of the English. Following England’s victory at Agincourt in 1415, Archbishop Chichele raised the celebration of St George to a Double Feast.

St George has been immortalized in many ways, for example, in Shakespeare’s Henry V, Act III features a speech with ‘Cry God for Harry, England and St George’.

st george and the dragon

In addition to his army background and dedication to his faith, St George is famous for fighting a dragon, which typically symbolized the Devil during the Middle Ages.

Legend says that St George fought a dragon and saved a princess in the town of Silene – although this is most likely a myth. According to legend, the only well in Silene was guarded by a dragon and each day, residents had to make human sacrifices in order to access the water.

A princess was the next to be sacrificed and on the day she was due to be killed, St George bravely fought the dragon to save her. After St George successfully killed the dragon, the people of Silene were finally granted free access to the well and, as a token of their gratitude, they converted to Christianity.

Why is St George’s Day not a public holiday?

While many countries mark their patron saint’s day with a national holiday, England does not do the same for St George’s Day.

St Patrick’s Day, St David’s Day and St Andrew’s Day see Ireland, Wales and Scotland celebrated with patriotic community events but St George’s Day has become less significant over the years, leaving the nation confused as to whether they should recognize and celebrate it or not.

As the date isn’t viewed as a bank holiday, transport, schools and businesses operate as normal every year.

In 2018, former leader of the Labor Party Jeremy Corbyn, said the patron saint day would become a national holiday under a Labor government. Some people showed their support for this idea, arguing a public holiday would help increase celebrations again.

How is St George’s Day celebrated in England?

Since the 18th century, after England and Scotland united in 1707, celebrations have diminished, although some parades and public activities continue to be held every year.

St George’s Cross, England’s flag and part of the Union Jack, is the symbol displayed on April 23. Dating back to the year of 1188, crosses were first used by King Henry II of England and King Philip II of France for their crusade symbols.

Despite England adopting a white cross at first, it later switched to a red cross, which was used as part of the uniforms of English soldiers in several battles. Edward I eventually made this symbol a national emblem during his reign.

Today, St George’s cross is used frequently at football, rugby and cricket games, with fans wearing scarves, painting their faces and flying flags to show their support for England.

While St George’s Day celebrations have decreased over time, there are still some parades, music performances and public events held across the country to honor the patron saint.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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