If there’s one thing people love to do, it’s finding an excuse to celebrate.
Enter Saint George, England’s patron saint. It’s rare to hear of a revered historical figure who didn’t meet a sticky or tragic end, as was common in those days, and poor George is no different. The story goes he was tortured and executed, dying for his faith, making him an early Christian martyr. Supposedly, he refused to make a sacrifice to honour the pagan gods. Sticking to his beliefs and morals, we can respect that.
St George has many stories associated with him, being a saint of many nations including Portugal, Romania, and Bulgaria, as well as England. This makes it difficult to deduce the truth.
What can be agreed upon is his date of death, the 23rd of April, which is the day people come together to celebrate 'The Great Dragon Slayer'. We love this specific legend, the one that states he slew an evil dragon that was attacking a local town. Of course, there was a princess involved and our gallant St George saved her life. A symbol of the Christian faith, St George supposedly stated that he would only kill the dragon if the town converted to Christianity. We’re not sure blackmail is worth celebrating; however, we can overlook it for a good dragon-slaying tale.
Then again, some interpretations say that he saved the town and the King’s daughter out of the goodness of his heart, refusing the treasures the King tried to bestow upon him for such service. This selflessness inspired the townsfolk to convert to Christianity then and there. A lot of holy water would have been needed for those baptisms.
This dragon legend was a story that was added much later than his supposed existence, 500 or so years after his death. But, again, we don’t blame people for believing it. It’s a classic Good versus Evil story. The knight in shining armour versus the evil dragon. Sometimes people just need a good legend.
If you find yourself in England on this fated day, you might use it as an excuse to have a little feast and celebration. Funnily enough, St George wasn’t English, instead born in Turkey. And as far as we know, he never even visited England. That doesn’t stop the English from idolising him.
In AD 494, Pope Gelasius officially declared the Dragon-Slayer a saint. Today, and for hundreds of years, many in England celebrate their Saint’s devotion and sacrifice with a feast on the 23rd of April.
In a way, you can say it’s a day to celebrate English culture for those living in England. So, what are some ways you could celebrate St George?
Observed on the 23rd of April each year, you’ll find parades and a range of celebratory activities popping up around England. Expect to see the symbol of St George (a flag with a red and white cross) everywhere, as well as people flooding the streets and local pubs, as well as Church services.
While this is a classic and easy way to join in on the day, it’s not the only option. For those who want to avoid crowds or simply can’t make it, there are other ways to celebrate all things English on St George’s Day.
One could argue there are beautiful places across the world, and they’re not wrong. But there’s a reason the English countryside continues to inspire literature and has been used as film locations over the years.
Strolling through a quiet little English village, it’s easy to picture it as it once might have been all those years ago when things like medieval taverns, knights, and dragon legends could have been the norm.
Wander down Arlington Row in Bibury and perhaps you’ll see Tristan from Stardust on his way to woo the detestable Victoria. Drive past the rolling countryside and imagine Elizabeth Bennett on her way to Netherfield to see her sick sister.
If you’re visiting England and looking for the best way to explore these incredible places, we’d be happy to take you there ourselves on our small-group tours out of London, Manchester, and Bristol (coming soon).
What better way to celebrate English heritage than by reading one of the greats? You’ll be spoilt for choice. Jane Austin, Charles Dickens, William Shakespeare. Many names that we know and many stories that we love.
In the mood for something a little closer to our legendary St George? You could try Le Morte d’Arthur by English writer Sir Thomas Malory and read the heroic and tragic tale of King Arthur and his knights.
There are even books out there about our very own patron saint, such as St. George for England by English writer G.A. Henty.
One of the greatest ways to experience a country is by partaking in the local cuisine. And while English cuisine may not be at the top of your list, there are some classics you can’t go wrong with.
1. Fish and chips
Pretty much anywhere you go in the UK, you’ll be able to find decent fish and chips. This is an absolute must and to do it right, you really should eat it outside in the open air, watching the sea and seagulls go by.
2. Bangers and mash
The English love their meat. Another classic is bangers and mash, also known as sausages and mashed potato. Throw on some peas and thick, rich gravy, and you’ve got yourself a hearty meal. If you find yourself in any English city or village, you’ll find a pub. More than likely, they’ll have something like this on the menu.
3. Sunday Roast
We told you. Brits love their meat. No-one quite does a Sunday roast like the English. The choice of meat is up for debate, but what isn’t is the inclusion of the famous Yorkshire puddings. This is a great chance to get some vege into your diet but be ready for copious amounts of gravy with this meal as well.
4. Bubble and Squeak
This cute-sounding dish is actually far more delicious than you might imagine. It’s also incredibly environmentally friendly, if you will, since it’s often made of leftover vegetables and mashed potatoes. Waste not. It was named Bubble and Squeak because the ingredients make bubbling and squeaking noises when they're cooking. The recipe has been around since the 1700s and is a classic.
What meal is complete without dessert? Brits are well-known for their love of afternoon tea, a genius idea if we do say so ourselves. There're many options for afternoon tea, but the scone is one of the top choices in our opinion. This sweet bread can be plain or infused with cheese or raisins. It’s best topped with jam and either clotted cream or butter. Add a cup of tea and you’ve got perfection.
The term hero can mean many different things to different people. Some will take it literally and think of a heroic knight from an old story who rescued the damsel in distress. Or a woodland bandit stealing from the rich and giving to the poor.
But for some, a hero might be the band whose song has meant a great deal to them through tough times. Perhaps singing Here Comes the Sun by the legendary British band The Beatles saw them through an important moment in their lives and has now become their anthem.
Perhaps their wall is covered with Harry Potter paraphernalia, the entire book series stacked in an honoured position on their bookshelf as they wait for their Hogwarts letter to arrive.
Or maybe they’re sitting at their desk, a document open as they begin writing their very first novel or poem or screenplay, in the hopes that one day they can be remembered the way the great William Shakespeare is.
In the words of the fictious Prime Minister from Love, Actually: “We may be a small country, but we're a great one, too. The country of Shakespeare, Churchill, the Beatles, Sean Connery, Harry Potter. David Beckham’s right foot. David Beckham’s left foot, come to that.”
He wasn’t wrong.
There’s a lot to celebrate and be proud of in England. And St George’s Day is simply an excuse to take a moment to do so. Much like St Patrick’s Day in Ireland, it’s a time to come together and celebrate, so we say why not?