Cry God for Harry! England and Saint George!
April 23, 2003 5:44 AM   Subscribe

Happy St George's Day. Patron saint of England, Portugal, skin diseases and syphillis amongst other things. Saint George may not have been English, or even have set foot in England, but a poll suggests many English people would like his day to be more enthusiastically marked. There's even an online petition you can sign in support of making St George's day a national holiday.The government shows little interest though. What's wrong with being English, and why shouldn't we celebrate our national day properly?
posted by squealy (28 comments total)
Patron saint of England, Portugal, skin diseases and syphillis

Comedy gold!
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:52 AM on April 23, 2003

Patron saint of England, Portugal, skin diseases and syphilis

...How are those linked, exactly?

Also that first page you pointed to is horrendous and doesn't format correctly on my computer - anyone else having this problem?

Happy St. George's Day regardless!
posted by phylum sinter at 5:59 AM on April 23, 2003

I think the reason St George's Day has never been as widely celebrated as St David's Day, St Andrew's Day etc is because nearly all English people consider themselves to be Welsh, Scottish or Irish.
posted by Summer at 6:00 AM on April 23, 2003

Also, Patron saint of scouting, particularly in the Ukraine (aah, foiled on the preview!).

Summer, not even slightly convinced most English people think of themselves as other than English, and frankly I'm happy to be part of a not particularly nationalistic nation.
posted by biffa at 6:08 AM on April 23, 2003

You must know a lot of Celtic wannabes though, biffa. I certainly do. I'm not sure we're not nationalistic. I think Englishness was sacrificed to Britishness at the time of the union.
posted by Summer at 6:13 AM on April 23, 2003

I think we should take St George's Day more seriously. At least give us a day off work.

BTW, useless fact fans, 23rd April is also the day Shakespeare was born, got married and died. In different years admittedly.
posted by jontyjago at 6:48 AM on April 23, 2003

You must know a lot of Celtic wannabes though, biffa.

Too many, but not a huge number. Some of the reasons people give for suggesting they are not English when they were born, bred and live in England seem ridiculous but generally seem to stretch no further than supporting teams against England at football/rugby, and if they're happier for it then fine.

I suppose its difficult to say how nationalistic we are comapred to others. There are aspects of englishness/britishness that bother me, eg getting behind 'our boys', but this sort of situation seems quite rare. It's difficult to know how nationalism really impinges on the lives of people in other countries, I can't say I'm bothered that we see the flags less than in other countries and I'm happy we don't have anything like the pledge of allegiance. How much further does such stuff actually impact the lives of MeFi-ers outside the UK?

(And to add to Jonty's useless facts, Cervantes died on the same day as Shakespeare)
posted by biffa at 7:00 AM on April 23, 2003

Patron saint of syphillis? What in the hell do you have to do to win this nomination?

I can just see the public service announcement now. "He slayed the dragon/ but even he's not as strong/ as Penicillin."

On preview: That was an unintential haiku. Cool!
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:07 AM on April 23, 2003

Busy guy.

Yes, given he probably never existed.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 7:18 AM on April 23, 2003

From here:

There is no evidence, alas, to support the popular belief that William Shakespeare was born — as fifty-two years later he was to die — on 23 April, the date celebrated in England since 1222 as the feast day of dragon-slaying St George.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 7:24 AM on April 23, 2003

I'm perfectly happy living in a country that doesn't enthusiastically celebrate it's National Day. I didn't even know today was St. George's Day until yesterday. Nationalism is an ugly thing, and patriotism is only a short step away.
posted by salmacis at 7:41 AM on April 23, 2003

salmacis - I beat you... First I knew about it was thinking 'is it?' when I opened this thread. ;)
posted by twine42 at 8:10 AM on April 23, 2003

Also, in Catalonia today is Sant Jordi, or "Book Day" (dia del llibre) and "Rose Day" (dia de la rosa): you have to give a book and a rose to your friends, relatives and even co-workers. That's the modern, politically correct version, decades ago, men received books and ladies flowers. In the company where I work part time I had a rose waiting for me... isn't nice?

I love it!
posted by samelborp at 8:23 AM on April 23, 2003

St. George is reputed to have slain the dragon on a small hill below the very cool White Horse of Uffington, in Oxfordshire. According to legends, the dragon's blood was spilled on a patch on the top of the hill, and nothing has grown there since. The whole area (around Uffington) has a lot of stone and bronze age sites, and is also very beautiful.
posted by carter at 8:49 AM on April 23, 2003

I think that the idea of Patron Saints for protestant countries is a little weird.

Doesnt stop me wearing a daff on March 1st though. Mostly cos it annoys my English workmates.

Come to think of it, I havent seen a single person wearing a rose today.

(Its cos they are 'shamed of being English I tells ya :))
posted by couch at 8:52 AM on April 23, 2003

I'm proud to be English, but would never dream of displaying a St George flag, as it seems to me they've been appropriated a sign of fascism. There's one flying five houses down from me at the moment, outside the house of a guy and his mother who show their pride at being English by calling my wife a"fucking nigger" and my daughter a "mongrel".
posted by Pericles at 10:28 AM on April 23, 2003

Here's the view from Lisbon's Saint George Castle. Go round slow enough and that's me in the blue jersey, waving attya.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 10:43 AM on April 23, 2003

Look, we just know, right?
posted by inpHilltr8r at 11:09 AM on April 23, 2003

As for proper celebrations, it looks like Shakespeare's birthday (correctly dated or not) may be getting more attention. So ... anyone running in this Sunday's Shakespeare marathon?
posted by win_k at 11:52 AM on April 23, 2003

First I knew about it was when I saw a colleague at work wearing a rose in his lapel. Personally, I could care less.
posted by Lleyam at 12:34 PM on April 23, 2003

Nice neighbours you got there Pericles.

I know the St George's Cross was appropriated by the far-right. But it's time to claim it back IMHO. There was some hope last year, that the number of English flags flying during the World Cup meant maybe that "ordinary" Englishmen had rejected it's association with fascism. The flag, if you like, had been won back by the common man. Your experience fills me with sadness. Let's hope it's an isolated example.
posted by squealy at 12:41 PM on April 23, 2003

Squealy, just what the hell was it with those poxy flags in the world cup? They made me want to vomit, they were everywhere, even in Wales. I don't think that was about patriotism, it was, like a royal death or jubilee, an opportunity for for national bonding. But we are a mongrel nation (sorry Pericles). Once the moment was over the flags were put away, to be brought out no doubt when the troops come home. In the meantime, notions of Englishness barely register.
I am another who knew nothing of it till I saw this thread. I did see a flag of St George flying in a Welsh garden earlier and remember thinking, "what a tosser", he is hardly trying to fit in or endear himself to his neighbours.
I am not proud to be English, nor am I ashamed, it's just where I happen to have been born, and as I had no say in the matter there is nothing to be proud about. You would be unable to define Englishness, so what is there to be proud of and why should it matter?
It strikes me that the world would be a more gentle and tolerant place if there was a little less misplaced pride in nationhood.
posted by Fat Buddha at 2:35 PM on April 23, 2003

As a Catalan living in London I found very amusing that every year the English newspapers run the same stories about the lack of interest of the English on celebrating their patron saint, as if this were something to be ashamed of.

As Samelborp has pointed out, for us Catalans St. Jordi is a big celebration --funnily enough it is not even a bank holiday-- and it's probably one of the nicest days in our festive calendar but let's not forget that there are strong commercial interests behind it and whole industries (publishers, book sellers, florists) working to raise awareness and promote this festive day.

Just consider how many people would ignore Christmas if they weren't bombarded with ads and what St Patrick's would be like without it's close association to certain brand of stout.... May be Saint George's day goes unnoticed in England not as a result of a lack of patriotism but due to lack of sponsorship...
posted by blogenstock at 3:08 PM on April 23, 2003

What's to be proud of in being English?

Perhaps that we are a "mongrel nation"? And of course, The Clash.

Anyway, I just want an extra day off. ;-)
posted by squealy at 3:21 PM on April 23, 2003

Guy Fawkes Night is more popular than St.George's Day. One is about burning catholics and to celebrate the other would be a little more catholic.
posted by vbfg at 2:54 AM on April 24, 2003

No, vbfg, Guy Fawkes night is about fireworks and baked potatoes.
posted by Summer at 3:32 AM on April 24, 2003

What's to be proud of about being English? I agree, The Clash, the fact that we are a mongrel nation [I am quintessentially English, being composed of Scottish/ Italian/ Jewish ancestry]. Generally - my unpleasant neighbours notwithstanding - we're a tolerant nation. Or else, we just hate people quietly, which is preferable to pogroms and massacres. The Mountbatten quote, from when he was viceroy of India "I don't care whether a man is muslim, Hindu or Sikh, as long as he can make a good cup of tea" is often cited as an example of British racism, but I think it's an example of tolerance.

There's one thing that often strikes me as being an essential difference between the English and the Americans. "Ethnic minority" Brits who were born here ( many of my old school friends are 2nd or even 3rd generation made-in-england) will always proudly say they are English/ British if asked where they're from. Americans I've met nearly *always* define themselves as Italian/ Irish/ polish/ - American, as if "American" on its own were not enough, somehow. Why?
posted by Pericles at 4:54 AM on April 24, 2003

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