St George's Day
|Saint George's Day|
|Observed by||Roman Catholic Church (see calendar)
Anglican Communion (see calendars)
Eastern Orthodox Church (see calendar)
Oriental Orthodox Church (see calendar)
Nations of which Saint George is the patron saint
|Type||Feast day; national day of England.|
|Observances||Church services, flying of the St George's Cross|
|Date||23 April 24 April, 6 May, 23 November|
|Related to||Feast of Saint George|
It is celebrated by various Christian Churches and by the several nations, kingdoms, countries, and cities of which Saint George is the patron saint. Saint George's Day is celebrated on 23 April, the traditionally accepted date of Saint George's death in 303 AD. For Eastern Orthodox Churches (which use the Julian calendar), '23 April' currently falls on 6 May of the Gregorian calendar.
Since Easter often falls close to Saint George's Day, the church celebration of the feast may be moved from 23 April. In England, where it is the National Saint's Day, for 2011 and 2014 the Anglican and Catholic calendars celebrate Saint George's Day on the first Monday after the Octave of Easter (see Easter Week) (2 May 2011 and 28 April 2014, respectively). Similarly, the Eastern Orthodox celebration of the feast moves accordingly to the first Monday after Easter or, as it is sometimes called, to the Monday of Bright Week.
- 1 Celebrations
- 2 In Catholic and Protestant countries
- 3 Orthodox countries
- 4 Organisations
- 5 In literature
- 6 References
- 7 External links
Countries that celebrate St George's Day include Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, England, Georgia, Greece, Macedonia, Romania, and Serbia. Cities include Genoa in Italy, Beirut in Lebanon, Qormi and Victoria in Malta, Moscow in Russia, Ljubljana in Slovenia, Rio de Janeiro in Brazil and many others. It is also celebrated in the old Crown of Aragon in Spain – Aragon, Catalonia, Valencia, and Majorca.
Besides the 23 April feast, some Orthodox Churches have additional feasts dedicated to St George. The country of Georgia celebrates the feast of St. George on 23 April and, more prominently, 10 November (Julian calendar), which currently fall on 6 May and 23 November (Gregorian calendar), respectively. The Russian Orthodox Church celebrates the dedication of the Church of St George in Kiev by Yaroslav the Wise in 1051 on 26 November (Julian calendar), which currently falls on 9 December on the Gregorian calendar.
In the General Calendar of the Roman Rite, the feast of Saint George is on 23 April. In the Tridentine Calendar it was given the rank of "Semidouble". In Pope Pius XII's 1955 calendar this rank is reduced to "Simple". In Pope John XXIII's 1960 calendar the celebration to just a "Commemoration". In Pope Paul VI's revision of the calendar, that came into force in the 1969 it was given the equivalent rank of a "Memorial", of optional use. In some countries, such as England, the rank is higher.
St George's feast is ranked higher in England and in certain other regions. It is the second most important National Feast in Catalonia (Spain), where the day is known in Catalan as La Diada de Sant Jordi, and it is traditional to give a rose and a book to a loved one.
UNESCO declared this day the International Day of the Book, since 23 April 1616 was the date of death and possibly anniversary of birth of both the English playwright William Shakespeare (according to the Julian calendar) and the Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes (according to the Gregorian calendar).
23 April is also the anniversary of the St. George Dragons Rugby League Football Club. The St George club coincidentally played their inaugural NSWRL first grade match on St George's Day, 23 April 1921 at the Sydney Sports Ground in Australia.
In Catholic and Protestant countries
St George's Day is celebrated among Albanians as a day of joy and believing in God; people will go out and build a fire and play around it, and they will bless their houses, fields, their children and everything around them with water as if it were holy water.
St. George's Day is celebrated on 23 April. St. George's Day is not an official national holiday in Canada. It is, however, a provincial holiday in Newfoundland and Labrador, where it is usually observed on the Monday nearest 23 April.
In the Czech Republic, Saint George's Day (svátek sv. Jiří) comes on 24 April. The reason why it was moved from 23 April is, because there is a day of St. Adalbert of Prague (in Czech Svatý Vojtěch), Czech national patron saint, who was martyred on 23 April 997. It is celebrated in a special way.
The earliest documented mention of St. George in England comes from the venerable Bede (c. 673–735). His feast day is also mentioned in the Durham Collectar, a ninth-century liturgical work. The will of Alfred the Great is said to refer to the saint, in a reference to the church of Fordington, Dorset. At Fordington a stone over the south door records the miraculous appearance of St. George to lead crusaders into battle. Early (c. 10th century) dedications of churches to St. George are noted in England, for example at Fordingham, Dorset, at Thetford, Southwark and Doncaster. In the past, historians mistakenly pointed to the Synod of Oxford in 1222 as elevating the feast to special prominence, but the earliest manuscripts of the synod’s declaration do not mention the feast of St George. The declarations of the Province of Canterbury in 1415 and the Province of York in 1421 elevated the feast to a double major, and as a result, work was prohibited and church attendance was mandatory. Edward III (1327–1377) put his Order of the Garter (founded c. 1348) under the banner of St. George. This order is still the foremost order of knighthood in England and St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle was built by Edward IV and Henry VII in honour of the order. The badge of the Order shows Saint George on horseback slaying the dragon. Froissart observed the English invoking St. George as a battle cry on several occasions during the Hundred Years' War (1337–1453). Certain English soldiers also displayed the pennon of St George. In his play Henry V, William Shakespeare famously invokes the Saint at Harfleur prior to the battle of Agincourt (1415): "Follow your spirit, and upon this charge Cry 'God for Harry, England, and Saint George!'" At Agincourt many believed they saw him fighting on the English side.
St George's Day was a major feast and national holiday in England on a par with Christmas from the early 15th century. The Cross of St. George was flown in 1497 by John Cabot on his voyage to discover Newfoundland and later by Sir Francis Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh. In 1620 it was the flag that was flown on the foremast of the Mayflower (with the early Union Flag combining St. George's Cross of England with St. Andrew's Saltire of Scotland on the mainmast) when the Pilgrim Fathers arrived in Plymouth, Massachusetts.
The tradition of celebration St George's day had waned by the end of the 18th century after the union of England and Scotland. Nevertheless, the link with St. George continues today, for example Salisbury holds an annual St. George's Day pageant, the origins of which are believed to go back to the 13th century. In recent years the popularity of St. George's Day appears to be increasing gradually. BBC Radio 3 had a full programme of St. George's Day events in 2006, and Andrew Rosindell, Conservative MP for Romford, has been putting the argument forward in the House of Commons to make St. George's Day a public holiday. In early 2009, Mayor of London Boris Johnson spearheaded a campaign to encourage the celebration of St. George's Day. Today, St. George's day may be celebrated with anything English including morris dancing and Punch and Judy shows. Additional celebrations may involve the commemoration of 23 April as Shakespeare's birthday/death.
A traditional custom on St George's day is to wear a red rose in one's lapel, though this is no longer widely practised. Another custom is to fly or adorn the St George's Cross flag in some way: pubs in particular can be seen on 23 April festooned with garlands of St George's crosses. It is customary for the hymn "Jerusalem" to be sung in cathedrals, churches and chapels on St George's Day, or on the Sunday closest to it. Traditional English food and drink may be consumed.
There is a growing reaction to the recent indifference to St George's Day. Organisations such as English Heritage and the Royal Society of St George have been encouraging celebrations. There have also been calls to replace St. George as patron saint of England on the grounds that he was an obscure figure who had no direct connection with the country. However, there is no obvious consensus as to whom to replace him with, though names suggested include Edmund the Martyr, Cuthbert of Lindisfarne, or Saint Alban, with the last having topped a BBC Radio 4 poll on the subject. Recently there have been calls to reinstate St Edmund as the patron Saint of England as he was displaced by George some 400 years ago.
Religious observance of St George's day changes when it is too close to Easter. According to the Church of England's calendar, when St. George's Day falls between Palm Sunday and the Second Sunday of Easter inclusive, it is moved to the Monday after the Second Sunday of Easter. In 2011, for example, 23 April was Holy Saturday, so St George's Day was moved to Monday 2 May. The Catholic Church in England and Wales has a similar practice.
In Iraq the Christians celebrate this day as well; normally they would visit a church in northern Iraq (Mosul) where there is a church on the hill named after St. George; St. George Monastery (Mar Gorgies). However, the church was destroyed on November 2014 by ISIS militants.
Saint George's (or Jeries as named by Jordanians) Day is celebrated widely in Jordan, especially in a town near Amman called Fuheis. In Jordan, many churches are dedicated to St. George.
St George's Day is celebrated throughout Lebanon, but especially in towns and villages where churches for St George have been erected.
Devotions to Saint George in Portugal date back to the twelfth century, and Saint Constable attributed the victory of the Portuguese against what is now mostly modern day Spain, in the battle of Aljubarrota in the fourteenth century to Saint George. During the reign of King John I (1357–1433) Saint George became the patron saint of Portugal and the King ordered that the saint's image on the horse be carried in the Corpus Christi procession. In fact, the Portuguese Army motto means Portugal and Saint George, in perils and in efforts of war.
Saint George is associated with several areas of Spain. He is the patron saint of the former Crown of Aragon, since King Peter I of Aragon won the Battle of Alcoraz with his patronage. The saint is also patron of several cities. In most cases, the reason for those cities' relation with the Saint as their holy Patron is linked to historic events which happened during the "Reconquista."
The Saint's feast is also celebrated in many towns outside the former Crown of Aragon in Spain. Saint George has been the patron saint of Cáceres, since 1229 A.D. Celebration of Saint George's Day in Cáceres is strongly centred in the world of legends. Celebrations include a parade featuring re-enactors of Moorish and Christian soldiers but the core of the commemoration focuses mainly on the legend of Saint George slaying a dragon to save a princess (see: Saint George and the Dragon).
This is primarily the legend popular all over Catalonia, Spain. In Cappadocia – the region's name changes depending on the person asked, there was a dragon attacking the kingdom. Scared to death, the inhabitants decided to give two lambs every day to the dragon to satisfy its hunger and prevent attack on the village. But when the animals became scarce it was decided to send a person, chosen by drawing lots, and a lamb. When a family member was devoured by the dragon, the family received a rich compensation from the Kingdom's Treasury.
There are two versions of the legend at this juncture: the first one involves people getting tired of no member of the royal family being sent and therefore decide that the princess should be sent to the Dragon; while the second version says that one day a princess was chosen by drawing lots to accompany the lamb. In any case, on the way to the cave of the dragon, the princess found a gentleman or knight of the name Jordi (George) and he slew the dragon by stabbing his sword into it and rescued her. From the blood that flowed from the lifeless body of the monster was born a red rose which the gentleman handed to the princess.
The king offered the gentleman all the riches imaginable but he preferred that the riches be allocated to the inhabitants of the kingdom. In addition, a church was built in his name, from which flowed miraculous water that was able to heal the sick.
Therefore, in Catalonia, Balearic and parts of Valencia, it is customary on 23 April for men give away roses to women, like the knight who addressed the princess. The women give the men a book, remembering the death and burial respectively of two great European literary personalities, Miguel de Cervantes and Shakespeare, and the Spanish notable literary personality, Inca Garcilaso.
As in the rest of the ancient Crown of Aragon, the Feast of St George is celebrated enthusiastically in the Community of Aragon, being the country's patron saint and its national day. On 23 April, Aragon celebrates its "Día de Aragón" (Day of Aragon) in commemoration of the Battle of Alcoraz (Baralla d'Alcoraz in Aragonese), on which Huesca was conquered by the Aragonese army and in which tradition says that St George appeared at a critical moment for the Christian Army, aiding them to win the battle for the "True Faith".
As in Catalonia, roses and books are exchanged among individuals, often bearing ribbons with the colours of Aragon's flag.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Diada de Sant Jordi.|
La Diada de Sant Jordi (Catalan pronunciation: [ɫə ðiˈaðə ðə ˈsaɲ ˈʒɔrði], Saint George's Day), also known as El Dia de la Rosa (The Day of the Rose) or El Dia del Llibre (The Day of the Book) is a Catalan holiday held on 23 April, with similarities to Valentine's Day and some unique twists that reflect the antiquity of the celebrations. The main event is the exchange of gifts between sweethearts, loved ones and colleagues. Historically, men gave women roses, and women gave men a book to celebrate the occasion – "a rose for love and a book forever." In modern times, the mutual exchange of books is also customary. Roses have been associated with this day since medieval times, but the giving of books is a more recent tradition originating in 1923, when a bookseller started to promote the holiday as a way to commemorate the nearly simultaneous deaths of Miguel Cervantes and William Shakespeare on 23 April 1616. Barcelona is the publishing capital of both Catalan and Spanish languages and the combination of love and literacy was quickly adopted.
In Barcelona's most visited street, La Rambla, and all over Catalonia, thousands of stands of roses and makeshift bookstalls are set up for the occasion. By the end of the day, some four million roses and 800,000 books will have been purchased. Most women will carry a rose in hand, and half of the total yearly book sales in Catalonia take place on this occasion.
The sardana, the national dance of Catalonia, is performed throughout the day in the Plaça Sant Jaume in Barcelona. Many book stores and cafes host readings by authors (including 24-hour marathon readings of different classics of Catalan literature or Spanish literature). Street performers and musicians in public squares add to the day's atmosphere.
23 April is also one of only three days a year when the Palau de la Generalitat, Barcelona's principal government building, is open to the public. The interior is decorated with roses to honour Saint George.
Valencia celebrates St George's Day with a different intensity, though in several zones it has similarities to Valentine's Day, like in Catalonia.
One notable celebration is in the Valencian city of Alcoi. There, Saint George's Day is commemorated as a thanksgiving celebration for the proclaimed aid the Saint provided to the Christian troops fighting the Muslims in the siege of the city. Its citizens commemorate the day with a festivity in which thousands of people parade in medieval costumes, forming two "armies" of Moors and Christians and re-enacting the siege that gave the city to the Christians.
Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina
In Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina St George's Day is also called Đurđevdan and is celebrated by Bosnian Serbs and Romani (both Orthodox and Muslim), but also has been celebrated by the other ethnic groups in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Đurđevdan's widespread appeal can be seen in the folk song Đurđevdan popularised by Bijelo Dugme as well as Meša Selimović's novel Death and the Dervish. In Serbia St George is patron of many homes and Serbs celebrate Đurđevdan in their houses on 6 May.
Possibly the most celebrated name day in the country, St George's Day (Гергьовден, Gergyovden) is a public holiday that takes place on 6 May each year. A common ritual is to prepare and eat a whole lamb, which is an ancient practice possibly related to Slavic pagan sacrificial traditions and the fact that St George is the patron saint of shepherds. It is also believed to be a magical day when all evil spells can be broken. It was believed that the saint helps the crops to grow and blesses the morning dew, so early in the morning they walked in the pastures and meadows and collected dew, washed their face, hands and feet in it for good luck and even in some rural parts of Bulgaria it was a custom to roll in it naked.
St George's Day is also Bulgarian Armed Forces Day, made official with a decree of Prince Alexander of Battenberg on 9 January 1880. Parades are organised in the capital Sofia to present the best of the equipment and manpower of the Bulgarian military, as well as in major cities nationwide.
The Russian Orthodox Church, which uses the Julian calendar, has two important feasts of Saint George. Besides the feast of 23 April (6 May in the Gregorian calendar), common through all Christendom, Russians also celebrate the anniversary of the dedication of the Church of St George in Kiev by Yaroslav the Wise (1051) on 26 November (Julian Calendar), which currently falls on 9 December. One of the Russian forms of the name George being Yuri, the two feasts are popularly known as Vesenniy Yuriev Den (Yuri's Day in the Spring) and Osenniy Yuriev Den (Yuri's Day in the Fall).
In Serbian, St George's Day is called Đurđevdan (Cyrillic: Ђурђевдан) and is celebrated on 6 May every year, as the Serbian Orthodox Church uses the Julian, Old Style calendar. St George's Day is one of the most common Slavas (family patron day) among the Serbs. Đurđevdan is also celebrated by both Orthodox and Muslim Romani and Muslim Gorani. Đurđevdan is celebrated, especially, in the areas of Raška in Serbia. Apart from being the Slava of many families, St George's Day is marked by morning picnics, music, and folk dances.
Many Christian denominations in Syria celebrate St George's Day, especially in the Homs Governorate. They do this by dressing small children as dragons and chasing them through the streets whilst beating them with clubs and batons. It is a very special time of year, after the beatings folks will enjoy a sit down dinner and dancing. The monastery of Mar Jurjus  (St. George) dates back to the 6th century and is a regional centr of Orthodox Christianity.
In the book, Dracula by Bram Stoker, evil things are said to occur on St George's Day, beginning at midnight. The date of St George's Day presented in the book, 5 May (on the Western, Gregorian calendar), is St George's Day as observed by the Eastern Orthodox churches of that era.
(Excerpt from Dracula, 1897) "Do you know what day it is?" I answered that it was the fourth of May. She shook her head as she said again: "Oh, yes! I know that, I know that! but do you know what day it is?" On my saying that I did not understand, she went on: "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?"
Additionally, the play Andorra (1961) by Max Frisch focusses greatly on the (fictionalised) Andorran celebrations of St. George's Day. The play begins and ends with references to a ceremonial whitewashing of houses by the town's virgins, again reflecting the day's central theme of purity.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Saint George's feasts.|
- The Royal Society of Saint George website
- St George's Day Events, official website for tourism in England
- St George's Day, A collection of websites by The Guardian
- Saint George, BBC page
- St George Rugby League, Jubilee Avenue, Our Proud History Since 1921
- Po Gergjovden