St George’s Day 2023: Who is England’s patron saint, why is he celebrated and why isn’t it a bank holiday?

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We break down why St George’s Day is celebrated as festivities take place over the weekend.

This Sunday, April 23, marks St George’s Day. Commemorated up and down the country every year, April 23 is a day to celebrate everything English.

Across the weekend, celebrations, including parades and festivals, are set to take place across the UK in honour of the annual holiday. As part of the festivities, you’ll no doubt see the St George’s cross flying at pubs, homes and in town centres in England, as well as people donning red and white outfits to reflect the flag’s colours.

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It is traditional to toast the day with a feast, enjoying classic meals such as fish and chips. But with Sunday known for traditional roast dinners, what better way to join in on the festivities than with a home-cooked meal.

St George’s Day has been a part of culture for a long time, with the April 23 festivities having first been observed in the 9th century. But what exactly is the meaning behind the day?

Here’s everything you need to know about St George’s Day, from who the day is named after and why it is celebrated.

Who is St George?

St George’s Day honours the patron saint of England. You may be familiar with the name St George purely for the name of the well-known white and red crossed England flag.

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The early figure has long been hailed as a national hero, and over the last 1,600 years, many noble stories have been told about him. According to legends, St George was a knight who bravely slayed a fire-breathing dragon.

The exact details of late England’s patron’s life are not known. However, he is believed to have been a real person who lived through the third and fourth centuries.

However, it may surprise some to hear that he was not born in England. Instead, the saint was thought to hail from Cappadocia, a historical region of Turkey.

Why is St George’s Day celebrated?

April 23 is widely recognised to have been the day of St George’s death. Therefore annual celebrations mark the anniversary of his passing in 303 AD.

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In the early 4th century, St George became a martyr after he was executed during the persecutions of the Emperor Diocletian. The saint, who was assumed to have been an officer in the Roman army, is thought to have been killed after refusing to make a sacrifice in honour of the pagan gods.

While he never stepped foot in England, St George’s reputation preceded him as he became known in the country for his dedication to his faith and virtue.

Why isn’t St George’s Day a bank holiday?

In 1415, St George’s Day was made a national feast day and holiday in England, an annual event which continued until the 18th century. However, after the Act of Union between England and Scotland in 1707, the celebration and significance diminished.

Now, unless it falls on a weekend, schools and businesses open as usual. This is despite campaigns and political pledges to make it a public holiday in England again.

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