St. George's Day

The feast of England's patron saint is 'celebrated' (or not) on the 23rd April.

Although St. George became England's patron saint in the 13th century, replacing Edward the Confessor, very little is known about the man himself - save that he lived in the 4th century and died in Lydda, Palestine.

He began to attract reverence in the 6th century when Ælfric (see below) included him in his homilies and saints' lives c.1000. It would seem that the legend of George slaying the dragon appeared as late as the 12th century, presumably originating with the story of Perseus and Theseus. It is believed his adoption as the English patron saint occurred when a church in Doncaster was dedicated to him in 1061. Crusaders also probably returned with accounts of the respect paid to him in the Middle East - the red cross depicted on the English flag may well have come from the same source.
At the Council of Oxford in 1222, St George's Day was declared a public holiday. Edward III instituted the Order of St George and encouraged the battle cry 'St George for England!' St George's Day continued to increase in popularity and the 23rd April quickly became an occasion for feasting in monasteries across England.

In 1483 Caxton printed the 13th century Golden Legend, followed in 1515 by Alexander Barclay's published translation of Spagnuoli's Georgius. Later still, Elgar wrote The Banner of St. George for Queen Victoria's 1897 Diamond Jubilee.

Knighthoods of the Order of the Garter are bestowed on 23rd April. A red rose is associated with this day, although the saint's colour is in fact blue (after the shade of the original garter) and it is traditional to wear something blue.

St. George also frequently appears in Mummers' Plays during Easter and Christmas celebrations (and is a central character in the Calder Valley Pace Egg plays).

who was Ælfric?

(c.955-c.1020) Ælfric was one of the greatest vernacular prose writers of the first millennium. He wrote two books of 80 Homilies (990-92) in Old English; a translation of the first seven books of the Bible and The Lives of the Saints (993-98). He also wrote a popular Latin grammar and Latin-English glossary, along with a Latin Colloquium between a master, pupil and several craftsmen (including a shepherd, ploughman and merchant), which now offers us a unique picture of social conditions in England during that period.