Happy St. George’s Day! Google marks the occasion with a colourful doodle showing George and the dragon
Happy St. George’s Day, the date in the English calendar set aside to celebrate the country’s patron saint.
Annually, on April 23 – the date the saint was said to have died – Christian churches put on feasts to honour the Roman soldier, born in present-day Turkey around 280AD.
From as early as the 15th Century, St. George’s Day was a national holiday in England, celebrated in a similar way to how we mark Christmas, but after the union of Scotland and England at the end of the 18th Century, it became more of a reserve of religious groups. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn recently announced plans to bring the national holiday back, as well as introduce bank holidays for the other patron saints of the UK – St. Patrick, St. David and St. Andrew.
St. George’s Day
Today, St. George’s Day is typically marked by the flying of the St. George’s Cross flag and garlands. Traditional English food and drink, such as bread, cheese and saltwater fish, is eaten, and churches will sing the hymn Jerusalem in the saint’s honour. The BT Tower in London has been decorated this morning with a picture of the flag and St. George. As this year’s St. George’s Day falls on a Monday, the main celebrations would have taken place across the country yesterday; the closest Sunday to the event.
Legend has it St. George served as a soldier in the Roman army before being killed by Emperor Diocletian for his Christian faith in 303 AD. The story goes that during his time as a soldier, a dragon called Ascalon terrorised a small town. The population of this town was forced to make sacrifices to the dragon in order to receive water. On the day the king’s daughter was due to be sacrificed, St. George is said to have rode through the town on horseback, slayed the dragon and saved both the town and the princess from the beast. Many paintings, stained-glass windows and books depict George drawing his sword from the neck or body of the dragon.
Today’s colourful Google Doodle shows a, somewhat, less gory version of this. The animation depicts a group of school children dressed up as the characters in the St. George story, including St. George himself and his dragon. The Doodle also shows a child dressed as a lion, a sign of medieval English bravery, and there are even children dressed as Titania and Nick Bottom in honour of William Shakespeare who shares a birthday with St. George’s Day.
In Syria, children mark the occasion by dressing as dragons and chasing people through the streets, hitting them with batons. In Hungary, St. George’s Day is known as the day of Saint George the Dragonkiller and is celebrated a day later than in England.