Thursday, 23 April 2009

It's Saint George's Day!

Flag of Saint George

It might be Saint George's Day and although he's the patron saint of England, it's not a public holiday so not much in the way of celebrations or people wearing the national flower, a red rose. Why not?

Well I think that's weird because the other countries that are part of the United Kingdom celebrate their patron saints days. You're more likely to see a Saint Patrick's Day parade on March 17th in England, than any celebration of Saint George on 23rd April. So why don't we celebrate Saint George's Day?

A recent survey show that little is known about England's national day being "celebrated" today and it's not really surprising given that there is so little about it publicised and celebrated. In the poll carried out by This England magazine:
  • Seven out of 10 young people in England have no idea when St George's Day falls

  • 40% said they did not know why St George is the patron saint of England

  • One in eight people said they found it embarrassing to see the St George Cross flying, due to the patriotic symbol having been hijacked by extremists for their own benefits

There is a real danger that in future, St George's Day could be deemed irrelevant to the younger generations of English people. So much for the Citizenship lessons that are part of the National Curriculum they've been delivering in school for the last few years!

The survey also reported that the majority of English people think that all St George ever did was kill a dragon. So what do we really know about Saint George?

Historians have debated the exact details of the birth of Saint George for over a century, the approximate date of his death is subject to debate.

It is likely that Saint George was born to a Christian noble family in Nicomedia, during the late third century between about 275 AD and 285 AD, and he died in Lydda, Palestine. His father, Geronzio, was a Roman army official from Cappadocia and his mother was from Palestine. They were both Christians and from noble families of Anici, so by this the child was raised with Christian beliefs.

They decided to call him George, meaning "worker of the land". At the age of 14, George lost his father; a few years later, George's mother, Policronia, died. Then George decided to go to Nicomedeia, the imperial city of that time, and present himself to Emperor Diocletian to apply for a career as a soldier.

Diocletian welcomed him with open arms, as he had known his father, Geronzio — one of his finest soldiers. By his late 20s, George was promoted to the rank of Tribunus and stationed as an imperial guard of the Emperor at Nicomedeia.

In the year AD 302, Diocletian (influenced by Galerius) issued an edict that every Christian soldier in the army should be arrested and every other soldier should offer a sacrifice to the Pagan gods. But George objected and with the courage of his faith approached the Emperor and ruler. Diocletian was upset, not wanting to lose his best Tribune and the son of his best official, Geronzio. George loudly renounced the Emperor's edict, and in front of his fellow soldiers and Tribunes he claimed himself to be a Christian and declared his worship of Jesus Christ.

Diocletian attempted to convert George, even offering gifts of land, money and slaves if he made a sacrifice to the Pagan gods. The Emperor made many offers, but George never accepted.

Recognizing the futility of his efforts, Diocletian was left with no choice but to have him executed for his refusal. Before the execution George gave his wealth to the poor and prepared himself. After various torture sessions, including laceration on a wheel of swords in which he was resuscitated three times, George was executed by decapitation before Nicomedia's city wall, on April 23, 303. A witness of his suffering convinced Empress Alexandra and Athanasius, a pagan priest, to become Christians as well, and so they joined George in martyrdom. His body was returned to Lydda for burial, where Christians soon came to honour him as a martyr.

What about the best-known story about Saint George, his fight with a dragon? According to Wiki it's a myth brought back with the Crusaders.

Extracted from Wiki


We aren't the only ones to hold Saint George in high esteem. He's also patron saint of Aragon, Catalonia, Ethiopia, Georgia, Greece, Lithuania, Palestine, Portugal, and Russia, as well as the cities of Amersfoort, Barcelona, Beirut, Bteghrine, Cáceres, Ferrara, Freiburg, Genoa, Ljubljana, Gozo, Pomorie, Qormi, Lod and Moscow.

Barcelona and Saint George

In Barcelona he's known as
Sant Jordi and guess what? The day is Barcelona's Valentine's day, a day when kissometer readings go off the charts. They celebrate the fact that Sant Jordi allegedly slew a dragon about to devour a beautiful princess south of Barcelona. From the dragon's blood sprouted a rosebush, from which the hero plucked the prettiest for the princess. So they have had a traditional Rose Festival celebrated in Barcelona since the Middle Ages to honour chivalry and romantic love. It's a day for men and mice alike to give their true loves roses.
In 1923, the lovers' fest merged with International Book Day to mark the anniversary of the deaths of Miguel de Cervantes and William Shakespeare on 23rd April 1616. (23rd April was also WIlliam Shakespeare's birthday). Over four million roses and half a million books are sold in Catalunya on Sant Jordi's Day, men giving their inamoratas roses and the ladies giving books in return. Bookstalls run the length of the Rambla, and despite the fact that April 23rd is an official workday, nearly all of Barcelona manages to play hookey and wander.

Source:
Spanish Property World

Now maybe we should all take a leaf out that book if you pardon the pun. Well let's face it, they really do know how to party in Barcelona!