English National Holiday, 23rd April - the Feast of Saint George

"Cry God for Harry, England and St George!" - William Shakespeare Henry V

The fanciful

13:58 <wertperch> Remember that Monday is Saint George's Day. Mark your calendars accordingly.
14:00 <pomegranate> How is the mythical slayer of dragons celebrated?
14:02 <wertperch> Traditionally, a high tea is prepared, with pork pies (Cornish pasties are acceptable in the South-West, of course), tea and crumpets (or scones)
14:02 <lawnjart> Why, by pounding linked sausage to mush with a cross peen hammer, how else?
14:03 <wertperch> For the gentlemen, dark beer after the traditional sword-fencing, for the ladies, sherry. Following a rousing game of bridge.
14:05 <wertperch> The children may pound sausages, I suppose. They used to do that in Cumbria, after witch-burnings.
14:06 <pomegranate> presumably the destruction of the sausage emulates the demise of the wicked reptile?
14:07 <wertperch> The traditional "cutting the pie", I believe, represents the actual slaying.
14:08 <pomegranate> I shall make some semblance of such a feast, in honor of the valiant knight: would a wild boar pie be suitable? I have rather a lot of that on my hands at the moment…
    - exceprts from chatterbox archive from 20 April, 2012

The Less Fanciful

Chatterbox fancies aside, the Feast of Saint George, as I knew it in my church-going days, is celebrated on the 23rd of April each year. I use the word "celebrated" loosely; hardly anyone really celebrates. This is no Fourth-of-July holiday with parades and flags and fireworks. Occasionally one will see people wearing a red rose, or flying the cross of Saint George on a house or car. The English, it seems, have lost touch with their patron saint in favour of…something else. Smartphones, perhaps.

During the 13th century, it was a holiday (literally, holy-day) prescribed by the Church as a feast day,and by the 15th century, it was on a par with Christmas. These days, sadly, it has declined, along with much of English culture. I call this a national bloody shame. The Irish have exported Saint Patrick's Day around the world, the Scots celebrate Saint Andrew, the Welsh, Saint David. But as a celebration of national identity Saint George slips away into the background, dragon slain and the saint himself pensioned off and living in a trailer park somewhere.

If I may be permitted one piece of trivia, it is also traditionally the day for picking dandelions to make wine. I tried it one year, picked them in the afternoon just after noon, fermented it nicely. Just that one year. There's a reason dandelion wine I only made it once.

Come Back, Saint George!

There is a movement to make the day a national, public bank holiday in line with other countries, and to raise awareness of the English identity. Watching the news, there are towns and villages in which dances are held, alongside picnics, bathtub races and sundry diversions. Several online petitions and websites proclaim the day and attempt to raise the red cross once again over the streets of England. The City of London, for example, held a pageant in 2010, the first in 425 years. It's a start.

Other countries celebrate him, notably Spain, Catalonia and Hungary. He does not just belong to England, The Catalan celebration is honoured with roses (again!) and books, it being the date of Miguel de Cervantes' death. Appropriate really, given that his most famous of characters was a knight, tilting at windmills.

The day is also traditionally held to be Shakespeare's birthday - he was baptised shortly after this date, and died on the same date, and this is yet another reason why many people are pushing for better recognition of the date, although poor Saint George once again slips into the background.

Encyclopædia Britannica
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