Saint George Defeating the Dragon by Johann König, c. 1630 via Flickr
Saint George Defeating the Dragon by Johann König, c. 1630 via Flickr

Every April 23, England celebrates its patron saint, St. George, who according to legend, was a soldier in the Roman army who killed a dragon and saved a princess.

When is the Feast of Saint George?

The Feast of Saint George, which is more commonly known as St George’s Day, is annually commemorated on 23 April, and is the day which sees England celebrate its patron saint.

In the General Roman Calendar, the feast of George is on 23 April. In the Tridentine Calendar of 1568, it was given the rank of "Semidouble". In Pope Pius XII's 1955 calendar this rank was reduced to "Simple", and in Pope John XXIII's 1960 calendar to a "Commemoration". Since Pope Paul VI's 1969 revision, it appears as an "optional memorial". In some countries such as England, the rank is higher – it is a Solemnity (Roman Catholic) or Feast (Church of England): if it falls between Palm Sunday and the Second Sunday of Easter inclusive, it is transferred to the Monday after the Second Sunday of Easter.

St. George is now a highly celebrated saint in both Western and Eastern Christian churches and a huge number of patronages of St.George exist all over the world.

Since the 14th century, St.George has been both England’s patron saint and the protector of the royal family. His cross forms England's national flag and features within the Union Flag of the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand.

St.George continues to be remembered and celebrated to this very day, with April 23 being a national day of celebration dedicated to the life, courage and martyrdom of St.George.

St.George's Day is celebrated not only in England, but in the several countries, nations, kingdoms and cities of which St.George is also the patron saint.

St. Geogre’s Day: Celebrations

Photo: Notingham Post
Photo: Notingham Post

Celebrate diversity and tolerance

Use the story of St George to promote the values of tolerance and acceptance by sharing the real history of the man, explaining that it is important to respect and tolerate other people’s ideas, beliefs and religions, even if they are different from your own.

You could create a map or display showing where George was born (Turkey), where he lived in Palestine as a Roman tribune, and where he is buried in the city of Lod in Israel. You could also then link this to some of the countries that have St George as their patron saint to show how far his fame has reached.

Arts and crafts

There are two famous paintings of St George dating from the early 15th century, which you could use to inspire the young artists in your settings. One image is by Uccello and another by Raphael, but they both depict a knight-like St George vanquishing the dragon. Ask your children to draw some knights and dragons on paper or make a collage using tin foil to show his shining armour.

Cooking ideas

Why not make and decorate some St George’s Day biscuits and teach the children about different shapes at the same time? Use a rectangle for the basic biscuit shape, then cover with white icing, mixing up some red icing to make a red cross across the white background to represent St George’s and the English flag. You could incorporate different shapes for the shield and other flags, such as triangles, too.

Dressing up!

We all love to dress up and play act and this is vital to help children develop creativity and understanding in their young minds. You could recycle some old cardboard boxes to make some play shields and swords and allow the children some unstructured play on the theme of knights and dragons!

Go on a visit to a stately home or a local park

The English Heritage and National Trust often promote St George’s Day celebrations in many of their sites around the UK. If you don’t want things to cost too much, you could simply go to a local park and hold a pretend ‘joust’; or research some medieval history and just have fun building sand castles!

What is the legend of St George?

Photo: BBC
Photo: BBC

Stories of George’s strength and courage began to spread throughout Europe, and the legend of his fight with a dragon became the best-known story about him.

George was first credited with slaying a dragon around the 12th century, but his name started to become known in England as early as the eighth century.

The legendary story about George and the Dragon is that St. George fought and killed a dragon on the flat topped Dragon Hill in Uffington, Berkshire, where it is said that no grass now grows where the dragon’s blood trickled down.

Shakespeare carved George’s name in the nation’s mind and history with the iconic line Henry V, when the King ends his pre-battle speech with the renowned phrase, ‘Cry God for Harry, England and St. George!”

****READ MORE: St George's Day: Quotes, Message and Funny Verses Poems

Who is St. George and where did he come from?

The early life of St.George is relatively unknown with accounts differing in regards to his place of birth.

Some believe George was born in Cappadocia and others that he originates from Syria Palaestina, but it is agreed by many that he was raised at least partly in the Lydda area of Palestine.

It is believed his parents were Christian, belonged to nobility and were of Greek heritage.

His father, Gerontius, was a Roman army official from Cappadocia, and his mother, Polychronia, was from Lydda, Palestine.

George’s father died when he was 14 years of age and he then returned with his mother to her homeland of Syria Palestina.

Aged 17, shortly after his mother’s death, George traveled to the capital at Nicomedia, where he then joined the Roman army, climbing through the ranks and being promoted to the rank of military tribune by his late twenties, where he was stationed as an imperial guard of the Emperor at Nicomedia.

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