St George’s Day is on 23 April each year. The day commemorates St George who is the patron saint of England. A patron saint is the protecting or guiding saint of a person or place.
Who Was St. George?
Little is known for definite about St George but it is believed that he was born in Cappadoccia (which is in modern day Turkey) in the 3rd Century AD. He was the son of English parents and was brought up as a Christian. He became a Roman soldier and served Emperor Diocletian who worshipped the Roman Gods. George protested against the Romans’ persecution of Christians so was imprisoned, tortured and was eventually beheaded. Throughout he stayed true to his Christian beliefs. George was canonised in AD 494 by Pope Gelasius who said that George was one “whose names are rightly reverenced among us, but whose actions are known only to God.”
Myth and Legend – George and the Dragon
St George is perhaps most famous for the story of him slaying a dragon. This story, from medieval times, has become legend and St George is often depicted on a white horse, sword in hand with a slain dragon at his feet.
Legend has it that in the city of Silene the people went to a nearby spring every day to get water. A dragon made its nest near the spring so the people took it a sheep each day to distract it whilst they got water. When there were no more sheep they decided to take a maiden from the town instead. Each day lots were drawn to decide who would be taken. One day, the name drawn was the princess of the town – Cleolinda. Despite the King’s protests his daughter was taken to the dragon. At that moment a brave knight came riding by on a fine white horse. It was George! He made the sign of the cross to protect himself, drew his sword and slayed the dragon, rescuing the princess. The people of Silene were so grateful that they converted to Christianity.
Why Patron Saint of England?
Although George wasn’t born in England he is associated with the country and identified with the English ideals of gallantry, honour and bravery. King Edward III decided to make St George the patron saint of England during his reign from 1327-1377. The King decided to make St George’s famous cross his military banner.
The cross of St. George still forms the English flag today – a red cross on a white background – and this is also incorporated into the Union Jack – the flag of Great Britain.
St George’s Day traditions include flying the flag of St George, wearing a red rose in your lapel and singing the hymn ‘Jerusalem’.
Ideas to Celebrate St George’s Day
St George’s Day is not a big event or a national holiday, although there are calls from some quarters to make it one. However, you can still celebrate St George’s Day and here are a few ideas of activities you can do:
England Flags – have a look at our Flag Download Page and download the England Flag. You can print it off and use for decorations. Or print off several copies, cut out the flags and attach to ribbon or string to make bunting.
Fancy dress – dress up as knights or dragons. Have a go at re-enacting the George and the Dragon story.
English Tea Party – hold a traditional English afternoon tea party with finger sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and jam, mini cakes and plenty of cups of tea!
Roar Like a Dragon – have a competition to see who can make the best and loudest dragon roar. It will get noisy but it will be good fun!
Design a Coat of Arms – St George’s symbol was a red cross on a white background. Why not have a go at creating your own coat of arms? Simply draw a shield shape on a large piece of paper or card and children can design their own coat of arms for their shield. When finished you can cut it out, attach a band to the back using string or a strip or cardboard and they can pretend to be a knight.
Traditional English Food – there are all sorts of meals you could have on St George’s Day. How about fish and chips, roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, steak and kidney pie, shepherd’s pie or toad in the hole. For dessert try Eton mess, bread and butter pudding, sticky toffee pudding, Chelsea buns or Eccles cakes.
Did You Know?
- St George is also the Patron Saint of The Scout Association and each year Scout groups across the country hold parades, ceremonies and events in honour of St. George.
- Lord Baden-Powell, who was the founder of the Scouting movement, chose St George to be the Patron Saint of Scouts because he thought his legend set a good example of faith, courage and perseverance.
- William Shakespeare was born and died on St. George’s Day – he was born on 23 April 1564 and died on 23 April 1616. This year is the 400 year anniversary of his death.
- St George’s Day is also celebrated in other countries including Canada, Croatia, Greece, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cyprus, Georgia and Romania.
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