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Most ex-pats of course are content with their lot. I mean, living on a tropical island with good beaches, good weather, good food and cheap beer, there really is not a lot to complain about. However even the most jaded of us get the occasianal twinge of nostalgia and for many of the English community on the island that comes on April 23rd, St George’s day.
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.
Declared a Saint in 494 by Pope Galasius I it took until 1222 when the Council of Oxford declared April 23 to be St George’s Day and he replaced St Edmund the Martyr as England’s patron saint in the 14th century. In 1415 (The same year as one of England’s greatest battle triumphs, Agincourt), April 23 was made a national feast day.
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 on May 1, 1707. Nowadays, celebrations are fairly low key, The flying of the flag, wearing a red rose and for the truly commited the singing of the hymn ‘Jerusalem’ are about as patriotic as most get although In recent times there has been a push involving campaigns and petitions, to make the day a public holiday in England once more.
St George is patron saint not only of England but also of Aragon, Catalonia, Ethiopia, Georgia, Greece, Lithuania, Palestine, Portugal, and Russia. He is also patron saint of scouts, soldiers, archers, cavalry and chivalry, farmers and field workers, riders and saddlers, and he helps those suffering from leprosy, plague and syphilis. A busy man indeed.
So this April 23rd why not take a moment to think fond memories of the homeland and raise a glass to St George and the mother country, or as another great English treasure once penned, “Cry God for England, Harry, and St George”.