Saint George’s Day or the Feast Day of Saint George is commemorated in honor of the Patron Saint of England who is remembered for his bravery for standing up against the tortures committed on Christians. He even was martyred in the process. This day is celebrated in various forms in various nations, and in England this day is officially the National Day.
This day is celebrated on the 23rd of April each year for it is believed that Saint George was martyred on that day in the year 303 A.D. For the Churches that follow the Orthodox method and still celebrates occasions as per the traditional Roman Julian calendar, the day is commemorated on the 6th of May as per the modern day Gregorian calendar.
When Easter falls in too close proximity to Saint George’s Day, the celebration of the Feast is sometimes moved according to the dictates of the Church. For example – In 2011, England’s Anglican and Catholic Churches celebrated the feast on May 2, while in 2014 the calendar declares celebration on April 28, in both the cases the day is being commemorated on the first Monday after Easter Week.
As per the mandates of the Eastern Orthodox Church, the celebration of the feats is often moved to the Monday of the Bright Week (also known as renewal Week) which is the period of seven days counted from the day of Easter. When Saint George’s Day comes in between Palm Sunday and the Second Sunday of Easter, the day of the feast is then moved to the Monday that comes after the Second Sunday of Easter.
- Saint George is the patron Saint of England. He was a brave Roman soldier who was taken aback by the torture of Christians by the Romans and he vehemently protested against it.
- He became popular in England from the time of the early Crusades. It is believed that the Normans saw St. George in a vision and after that they were victorious.
- St. George is depicted as a knight who carries a shield with a red cross or a banner that has a red cross on it, generally positioned upon a horse.
- Saint George is represented by the emblem of a red cross on a white background which also forms the basis of the flag of England. This emblem was adopted in the 12th century by Richard the Lion Heart who then brought it to England. The King’s soldiers wore it on their uniform for easy identification.
- Even today the Order of the Garter that was founded in 1334 under the patronage of Edward III has the banner of Saint George on it, and till this date this Order is considered to be the most respected order of knighthood in England.
- In honor of St George and the Order of Garter, the St. George’s Chapel was built at the Windsor Castle by Edward IV and Henry VII.
- The Cross of St. George has been considered to bring victory and as such used by voyagers like John Cabot who discovered Newfoundland, Sir Francis Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh. In 1620, the Flag of St. George was flown by the Mayflower to announce the arrival of the Pilgrim Fathers in Plymouth, Massachusetts.
- At present many people have put forward a debate in the House of Commons to make St. George’s Day a public holiday.
- St. George’s Day enjoyed a status of a major feast and was also declared a national holiday in England since the early part of 15th Century. Celebrations were as grand as that of Christmas fervor.
- However, this trend got diluted a little since the 18th century especially after England and Scotland were united.
- Since 2009 however the then Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, started to promote this day and encourage people to celebrate all things English. St. George’s Day is celebrated in many countries in the world especially where there is a large settlement of European population.
- There exists a traditional custom on this day to wear a red rose in the lapel, although not too widely practiced in the recent times. Some places are adorned with the St. George’s Cross flag. Some pubs fly the flag as well. Festoons of garlands of St. George’s Crosses can also be seen.
- As per tradition, Choirs at cathedrals, churches and chapels sing the hymn ‘Jerusalem’.
- Traditional English food and beverages are consumed on this day.
- In response to the growing indifference towards the Feast of Saint George in the recent times, organizations like English Heritage and the Royal Society of Saint George have been actively encouraging celebrations to mark the occasion.
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