Saint George’s Day, England’s national day remembers England’s patron saint.
While the day was a holiday to be compared to Christmas back in the 15th century, over time it waned in popularity and by the 19th century had been relegated to a sometime mentioned affair. There has been something of resurgence in recent years, with campaigns to make the day a national holiday (always sounds a good idea!)
How the day is celebrated is pretty much open to preference- whether you want to put on a Punch and Judy show, get out your bells and sticks for some Morris dancing, or just head down to your local pub covered in red and white flags and St. George’s crosses.
What is traditional for the day is a singing of my personal favourite hymn, ‘Jerusalem’ (Link goes to Billy Bragg‘s version of the song) whether it be in Church, Cathedral, or possibly in one of those patriotic pubs towards the end of the night.
For those who don’t know the basic story of George and the Dragon…well, long before Harry Potter was killing off Basilisks there was St. George.
There are many versions of the story, but one says that a poison belching dragon terrorized the people of Silene, in Libya. To prevent the dragon entering their city, they sacrificed sheep, when that didn’t suffice, they offered the men leading the sheep, then their children, selected from a city lottery.(Think a dragony Hunger Games). When the King’s daughter was selected, he did all he could to prevent her sacrifice, offering all his fortunes to have her spared, but to no avail.
The Princess was dressed as a bride and led out to the lake in which the dragon did dwell (starting to get into this medieval writing bit…)
St George happened to be passing at the time, and despite the Princess’s protestations for his safety he remained by her side. At that point the dragon emerged and came to them…George made the sign of the cross and ran the dragon through with his lance. He tied the Princess’ belt around the dragon’s neck, at which point the dragon became meek, and was led into the city. George told the terrified city people that he would kill the dragon if they converted to Christianity. They did. And he did.
Personally, as a child I seem to recall feeling a bit sorry for the dragon- he was tamed, then killed…
Interestingly enough, St. George’s Eve is also considered in Vampire law to be the most dangerous night of the year- forget Halloween, historically, it’s this date where evil, and Vampires in particular, are at their most dangerous.
As Bram Stoker wrote in Dracula– “It is the eve of St. George’s Day. Do you not know that tonight, when the clock strikes midnight, all the evil things in the world will have full sway?”
This may not be your typical St George’s Day post…but hopefully there’s something new here…
And to give some more traditional views of St George’s Day, here’s a few Google Doodles:
Have a happy St George’s Day everyone!