England prepares to celebrate St George’s day on 23 April

Mick the Ram

Apr 21, 2023

​Acknowledging a country’s designated patron saint’s day is something that is practised throughout the world and the 23rd of April is the turn of England to celebrate its own Saint George.

The other three nations that make up the United Kingdom have in recent history, made more of a fuss in recognising their own specific saints, in comparison to the English; but that does not mean that throughout the country there will not be huge numbers of people who do feel great pride and genuinely recognise the importance of the day, and they will mark it in many different ways.

Church of the martyrs 

Adopting patron saints is a practice that can be traced back to the building of the first public churches in the Roman Empire, with many being built over the graves of martyrs. These places of worship would then be given the name of that individual, but over time these buildings began having non-martyrs dedicated to them by Christians.

Through the ages it moved on from just churches and on to regions and then entire countries with which the saint had a connection, and as a progression the adoption of a Saint’s day came about. 

Order of the Garter

For England it was King Edward III, in 1348, who gave St George a special position as a patron saint of the Order of the Garter, supposedly in thanks for his intervention at the Battle of Crecy. His banner became part of the Royal Standard and Windsor Castle’s St George’s Chapel was built in honour of that order, which is the location of the last resting place of Queen Elizabeth II.

Celebrations across the country

Those citizens who feel a strong sense of national pride will be out in force on the 23rd April, right up and down the country with parades, marches, festivals, concerts, processions, re-enactments, and fundraisers taking place.

The entertainment is in planning for months with heritage and cultural programmes set to retrace traditions, particularly St George’s legendary encounter with a dragon. Families will be out in force as communities create medieval experiences, with plenty of knights and armour on display.

In some places, the day has become a major event of the calendar. In the city of Derby for example, the residents come out in force, packing the pubs in huge numbers from early morning through to late evening, to toast their saint in an impressive demonstration of appreciation for the day and all that it means.

The shared saint

St George is actually quite the international saint with many countries and regions claiming him as theirs. The likes of Portugal, Malta, Georgia, Greece, Palestine, Lithuania, and areas in Germany, Italy and Spain all have their own celebrations and ceremonies in his honour.

Additionally, he is the patron saint of soldiers, archers, farmers, riders and saddlers; plus he is said to aid those suffering from leprosy and plague.

Representation of good succeeding

The story of St. George and the Dragon dates back to the Middle Ages, when during that era the dragon was commonly used to represent evil, so it became the perfect tale of good triumphing over evil.

Never got around to visiting

Although St George is hailed in England in reality he is believed to have been born in Cappadocia – which is modern day Turkey – and died in Lydda – the present day Israel in the Roman province of Palestine – in AD 303. 

Also, it is thought that he never actually ever visited England,  but his reputation for virtue and holiness spread right across Europe.

Henry VIII flags up the saint

A feast day of St George has been celebrated in England for hundreds of years on 23 April, with the common belief that this was the date of his martyrdom. Following the Battle of Agincourt in 1415, St George’s Day became one of the most important feast days in the English calendar.

He became increasingly popular with English kings, but it was not until the reign of Henry VIII in the sixteenth century, that the St George’s cross began being used to represent England.

Celebrations allowed to wane

As a tradition, celebrations for St. George’s Day were allowed to diminish towards the end of the eighteenth century, after previously being on a par with Christmas as the major feast and national holiday in the country for hundreds of years.

Medal of honour

A year into the second World War, in 1940, King George VI created a new award for acts of the greatest heroism, or courage in circumstance of extreme danger, and as such The George Cross was born.

Although officially named after the king of the time, it bears the image of St George vanquishing the dragon. The image of St George also adorns many of the memorials built to honour those killed during World War One.

Greater appreciation of day’s value leads to popularity increase

Thankfully, St George’s day’s popularity has begun to increase steadily since the turn of the 21st century, as understanding of its significance, coupled with the pride that it can bring to its citizens, influences how the nation begins to view it.


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