My father’s brother was named George. My younger niece is named Georgia, after my uncle. St George’s Day is on 23 April. Today is their saints day, and I think of them particularly as I write this.
The title of this article is taken from my father’s account of how the Germans felt about the English patron saint, the dragon-slayer. I laughed every time. It still amuses me.
St George (c 275/281 to 23 April 303) was a Roman solider in the Guard of Diocletian and a Christian martyr. His father was Gerontius, a Greek Christian, and his mother was Polychronia. When Diocletian ordered all to make sacrifices to him, George refused. Diocletian did not want to lose so great a soldier and attempted to bribe him with gifts of land, slaves and money if he made the sacrifices. George continued to refuse despite being tortured before being beheaded. His other deeds are unknown, but the myth of him rescuing virgins from dragons is well known.
St George’s Day marks the death of the saint in AD303 and it is celebrated not only in England, but in several other countries as well. Bosnia, Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Georgia (I wonder why?), Greece, Macedonia, Romania and Serbia, amongst still more, all venerate St George.
Edward III put his Order of the Garter founded c. 1348 under the banner of St George. St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle was built by Edward IV and Henry VII in honour of the Order. The badge of the Order shows Saint George on horseback slaying the dragon.
The tradition of celebration St George’s Day had waned by the end of the 18th century but it is making a come-back in recent years. One custom which died away was the wearing of a red rose on St George’s Day – St George’s Day was also known as the Day of the Rose. The St George’s cross flag decorates most pubs and typically English food is usually served.
23 April is also World Book Day and the exchange of “a rose for love and a book for ever” commemorated the deaths of Miguel Cervantes and William Shakespeare on 23 April 1616.
Happy Saints Day, Georgia! Happy Saints Day to all who celebrate St George’s Day.