St George was born sometime around the year 280 in what is now Turkey. He was a soldier and rose up through the ranks of the Roman army, eventually becoming a personal guard to the Emperor Diocletian. He was executed for being a Christian on April 23, 303, and is buried in the town of Lod in Israel.
St George is most widely known for slaying a dragon. According to legend, the only well in the town of Silene was guarded by a dragon. In order to get water, the inhabitants of the town had to offer a human sacrifice every day to the dragon. The person to be sacrificed was chosen by lots. On the day that St George was visiting, a princess had been selected to be sacrificed. However, he killed the dragon, saved the princess and gave the people of Silene access to water. In gratitude, they converted to Christianity. It is thought that the dragon represents a certain type of pagan belief that included the sacrifice of human beings.
April 23 is not a public holiday. Schools, stores, post offices, businesses and other organizations are open as usual. Public transport services run to their usual timetables. However, St George’s Day was once celebrated as widely as Christmas. But the celebrations waned by the end of the 18th century after England had united with Scotland in 1707. In recent times, there has been a push, involving campaigns and petitions, to make the day a public holiday in England.
The Royal Society of St George was established in 1894 and Her Majesty the Queen is the Patron. In July 2007, Mr Holt, a Society member, was invited to attend the W.I.’s St George’s Day Dinner Celebration, a fund-raising event for the village sign. He writes in the Society’s Journal: “My wife and I joined the Geddington W.I. for a celebration dinner which was held in the stable block of Boughton House, by kind permission of His Grace the Duke of Buccleuch and Queensbury KT. It was a very enjoyable evening with an excellent feast provided by students from Tresham College.” Mr Holt commented, “Our patron saint’s virtues may not be extolled by certain sections of our ruling elite and communities, however these virtues essentially still exist even with that faith severely tested. Communities great and small, like Geddington, will continue to restore our faith in English Patriotism and foster the fair objectives of the Royal Society of St George. The evening’s menu showed a really mouth-watering fare, including a Beef and Ale Pie!”
The most widely recognized symbol of St George’s Day is St George’s cross. This is a red cross on a white background, which is often displayed as a flag. It has been the official flag of England for centuries as during the crusades in the 1100s and 1200s, English knights used St George’s cross as part of their uniform. It is used as England’s national flag, forming part of the Union Flag,
If you wish to find out more about the history of the W.I.’s Village Sign Project, you can find it in the drop down menu under the History button. (Sorry, for technical reasons, this page isn’t online yet.)