Today (April 23rd) is St George’s Day. Read on to find out more about England’s National Day.

Who was St George?

Saint George was a Greek officer in the Roman army, who was raised with strict Christian beliefs. When Emperor Diocletian ordered that all Christian soldiers should be arrested, George publicly condemned the move. The Emperor was fond of the soldier and offered him money and land if he renounced Christ in favour of the Roman gods, but George refused, so Diocletian sentenced him to death.

George prepared for his punishment by giving his riches away to the poor. He was beheaded on April 23rd by the walls of the ancient Greek city of Nicomedia, in modern day Turkey.

So, where does the story about the dragon come from? Some historians argue that the tale is merely symbolic, with the dragon George slayed representing the oppressive Roman Empire. However, the more traditional fable tells of a community blighted by a dragon that built its nest on the spring that carried water to them. To distract it each day so they could collect water, the people offered the beast a sheep, and if that didn’t work a woman was selected by drawing lots.

On one particular day, the maiden picked to be sacrificed was the princess. However, St George – a knight on his way back from the Crusades – rode past on a white horse. He used the red cross he wore as protection and bravely fought and killed the dragon. The people were so grateful they converted to Christianity.

The first mention of the patron saint recorded in England came from the Abbot of Iona in Scotland St Adomnán, who wrote of the knight and his tales of glory.

Customs and traditions

The symbol of St George is the red rose, and some people choose to wear one on St George’s Day to mark the event. However, the rose emblem is actually linked to the War of the Roses, which was the civil war between the red rose House of Lancaster and white rose House of York.

Numerous events took place this weekend to celebrate the patron saint’s day, including a traditional English farmer’s market in Trafalgar Square. Today, Google is celebrating the event with a special St George themed doodle.

Celebrations in 2013

David Cameron has spoken this week about how more and more people in the UK are marking St George’s Day. “I’m very proud to be English and I think it is important that people in England can celebrate St George’s Day, just as other nations of the United Kingdom celebrate their patron saints’ days,” the prime minister added.

To honour the occasion, the St George flag will fly at Downing Street, mirroring the flags that are likely to be displayed at many schools, shops and churches across England. As April 23rd is also widely thought of to be William Shakespeare’s birthday, many people celebrate the English playwright on this day, by reading his poetry and performing his plays.

St George’s Day meal

St George’s Day isn’t known as the Feast of St George for nothing – there are a whole host of British-made delicacies people like to tuck into to celebrate.

England doesn’t have a specific national dish, but the one that most would point to as being the traditional favourite is roast beef and Yorkshire puddings. However, the warm weather in April isn’t the best for enjoying a heavy roast dinner. Other traditional dishes that could be made instead to mark the feast include battered fish and chips with mushy peas or shepherd’s pie, followed by a tasty pudding.

Pudding is a British invention and there are plenty to choose from, with sticky toffee pudding a particular treat. Other traditional English desserts include jam and cream Victoria sponge and Eton Mess – a mix of fresh strawberries, cream and crushed meringue that is customarily served at Eton College’s summer cricket games.

Language Insight would like to wish you a happy St George’s Day. If you require either English translation or interpreting services, contact us today.