Here’s what you might not know about St. George’s Day:
Take a close look at the English flag. That red cross over a white background has meaning. It’s actually St. George’s Cross — a symbol so closely intertwined with English national identity that St. George has his own national holiday.
The legend of Saint George and the Dragon describes the saint taming and slaying a dragon that demanded human sacrifices. We celebrate St. George’s Day on April 23 — the anniversary of his death in 303 AD.
The patron saint of England has captivated British imaginations since the Crusades and the Hundred Years’ War. Perhaps the most British of all holidays, this special day is a chance to let your English flag fly, literally and figuratively.
When is St. George's Day 2023?
St. George’s Day is celebrated on April 23 every year.
History of St. George's Day
Immerse yourself in the grand tale of the knight, St. George, and his unforgettable battle against a dragon. St. George is the patron saint of England and his symbol is a red cross over a white backdrop — the same red cross incorporated into the flag of England. His emblem was brought to England by Richard the Lionheart in the 12th century and was worn by the king’s soldiers in battles.
St. George was born in what is present-day Turkey. Following in his father’s steps, he became a soldier and quickly rose in the ranks of the Roman army, ending up as a personal guard to Emperor Diocletian. When the emperor ordered the persecution of Christians, St. George refused to follow his orders and participate in this. He was tortured and executed in 303 A.D. in Palestine, where he is now buried.
The story of St. George slaying a dragon is well-known. The town of Silene was captured by a dragon. The locals would offer a human sacrifice to the dragon every day. When St. George was visiting the town, a princess was chosen to be sacrificed. So he killed the dragon and saved the people of Silene. To express their gratitude, the locals converted to Christianity.
St. George’s Day celebrations were on par with Christmas once. But the excitement waned towards the end of the 18th century when England unified with Scotland on May 1, 1707. The holiday has gained traction in recent years, with campaigns and petitions to make the day a public holiday in England. St. George is also the patron saint of other countries like Greece, Portugal, Bulgaria, Ethiopia, and Russia. Apart from St. George’s Day, several other holidays are devoted to him, including April 23 and a few in November and December.
St. George's Day timeline
Saint George dies in the Diocletianic Persecution.
Saint George’s flag, the red-on-white cross, is used as the ensign of the Republic of Genoa likely as early as during the 10th century.
The declarations of the Province of Canterbury in 1415 and the Province of York in 1421 elevates the feast to a ‘double major’ and, as a result, work is prohibited and church attendance is mandatory on this day.
St. George's Day becomes a major feast and national holiday in England in the same league as Christmas.
St. George's Day FAQs
What is the meaning of St. George's Day?
St. George’s Day in England remembers St. George, England’s patron saint. Legend has it that he was a Roman soldier who slew a dragon and saved a princess.
What do you eat on St. George's Day?
Popular food items to eat on St. George’s Day include; Sunday trifle, cottage pie, mushroom and stilton tarts, kedgeree, shepherd’s pie, and fish cakes.
Is St George's Day a bank holiday?
St. George’s Day is not a bank holiday in England.
St. George's Day Activities
Wear a rose
Why a red rose? Because according to legend, after saving a princess from the infamous dragon, St. George handed her a red rose. He was the ultimate dreamboat.
Fly the (English) flag
No, not the Union Jack. Try the St. George's Cross of England instead! There aren't many opportunities to let the English flag fly these days (unless you're a football fan), so seize the opportunity on St. George's Day.
Head to the capital
Every English city has its own St. George's Day festivities, but the main event happens in London. With its countless pubs (all flying the English flag), parades, shops, and massive fireworks display, London is the place to be on this most English of holidays.
5 Facts About St. George
St. George had some competition…
Edmund the Martyr, Edward the Confessor, and Gregory the Great were all contenders for becoming the country’s patron saint.
He is also linked to agriculture
St. George’s feast day takes place in spring, and his name means ‘earth-worker’ — in European history, people would pray to St. George for good tidings and harvest.
The Reformation had reservations
St. George was mocked as an improbable legend, but his story was kept alive and, to this day, hasn’t lost its appeal.
Patron saint for countries other than England
St. George is the patron saint of other countries as well, including Georgia and Portugal.
The legendary dragon
The dragon wasn’t always featured in St. George’s story — it may have started off as a metaphor for the triumph of good over evil, but evolved over time.
Why We Love St. George's Day
We're all British — for 24 hours
This day celebrates English culture. We can have a spot of tea, play polo, eat fish & chips, fly the English flag, and not worry about the consequences.
Originally a religious feast day, St. George's Day happens across religions and countries, stretching from the Middle East to Russia, Central Europe, to the Iberian Peninsula.
According to a 1,000-year-old legend, St. George slayed a dragon and rescued a princess when he was serving as a soldier in the Roman army.
St. George's Day dates