10 facts about… Saint George’s Day

St George’s story passed through the centuries growing in legend- but how did a man born in Cappadocia in AD 270 become the patron saint of England? Here are 10 fantastic facts about St. George’s Day

1. St. George’s Day takes place on 23rd April, which is traditionally accepted as being the date of his death in AD 303.

2. St. George was beheaded for resigning his military post and protesting against his pagan leader, the Emperor Diocletian (245-313 AD), who led Rome’s persecution of Christians

3. The Emperor’s wife was so inspired by St George’s bravery and loyalty to his religion, that she too became a Christian and was subsequently executed for her faith.

4.Before the cult of St. George was brought back from the Crusades, the top choice for England’s patron saint was Edmund the Martyr, one of the Whuffings, East Anglia’s ruling family. Edmund is also the p-saint of pandemics, torture victims, and wolves.

5. St. George is the Patron Saint of Scouting and on the Sunday nearest to 23rd April scouts and guides throughout England parade thorough the streets.

6. His emblem, a red cross on a white background was adopted by Richard The Lion Heart and brought to England in the 12th century, when the king’s soldiers would wear it on their tunics to avoid confusion in battle.

7. Aside from England, other countries that celebrate St. George’s Day include Canada, Croatia, Portugal, Cyprus, Greece, Georgia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the Republic of Macedonia.

8. Though celebrations are somewhat muted in modern times, Englishmen can still be seen to mark St. George’s Day with quintessentially British traditions, such as Morris Dancing (as in the video above), eating fish and chips or watching a Punch and Judy puppet show.

9. The most famous legend of St. George is of him slaying a dragon, with the dragon commonly used to represent the Devil in the Middle Ages. The slaying of the dragon by St George was first credited to him in the twelfth century, long after his death and it is therefore likely that the many stories connected with St George’s name are fictitious.

10. 23rd April 1616 was also the date of the death of the English playwright William Shakespeare. UNESCO marked this historic date by declaring it the International Day of the Book.

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Written by Britain Magazine // 23rd April 2014