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Buy George
by Asa Butcher
2008-04-23 09:17:45
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I'm going to reuse my intro for yesterday's Earth Day article because it seems so apt. Today is St. George's Day. I doubt you have anything special planned. There'll be no joyous parades through our towns, there'll be no flags flying and the kids will still have to go to school, so what's the big deal? I bet that got the patriotic blood pumping among some of our Daily Mail readers!

Saint George's Day is the national day of England held annually on April 23rd, a bit like Ireland's St. Patrick's Day but this one isn't celebrated as widely. Over the past few years an increasing number of English people have been observing the day by flying the flag of St. George (white background with a red cross), wearing a red rose or engaging in purely English activities, such as sitting on a beach fully-dressed eating fish and chips.

Whether the increased interest in celebrating St. George's Day has come from a patriotic need to reaffirm the English identity or developed due to shops cashing in by actually selling St. George paraphernalia is open to argument, but there is something a little hollow about the way St. George's Day has gained its popularity. I hate to offer the comparison but I see St. George's Day greeting cards up there with Happy Grandparents Day cards.

Is England that desperate to rediscover its identity that they are ready to dust off a relatively pointless holiday? 'Pointless!' I hear you cry, well yes. As an Englishman myself, I don't see how having a national day will give England the identity they believe is being taken away with increased immigration and Europe continually trying to get its foot in the door at Dover. Surely a national day would only be a plaster over a wound that has been festering for decades.

There is an active campaign to make April 23rd a bank holiday and I have to say that is a bad idea. Firstly, does England really want to shut down (partly) on a Wednesday, like today, or have the shops shut on a Saturday? When Finland observes Ascension Thursday by shutting its shops and running on Sunday timetables it is incredibly annoying and inconvenient. Secondly, is the idea of a bank holiday about celebrating English culture and identity, or just about having a day off from work and school?

When you think of St. Patrick's Day alcohol is one of the first things to come to mind. When you think of St. David's Day (Wales' national day) daffodils come to mind. When you think of St. Andrew's Day (Scotland's national day) thistles come to mind. When you think of St. George's Day, well not much comes to mind. Currently Wales and England are the only ones in the United Kingdom not to have their national day as a bank holiday, after the Scottish Parliament designated St. Andrew's Day as an official bank holiday in 2006.

Just because Scotland and Northern Ireland celebrate a national day isn't justification that England should follow suit. In fact, the Welsh submitted a petition to the British Government in February 2007 requesting St. David's Day become a bank holiday and this was the answer from the Department for Trade and Industry:

The Government receives a variety of suggestions for new or different Bank Holidays and celebrations. Whilst the Government is pleased that so many people are interested, as you can imagine it is not possible to please everyone as to who or what should be celebrated. Unlike Northern Ireland, where St Patrick's Day is a bank holiday, bank and public holidays in Great Britain do not, by tradition commemorate particular individuals, events, or institutions, other than those associated with Christmas and Easter. Moreover, many individuals and communities in Wales already celebrate St David's Day in a way they consider more suitable. The present pattern of bank holidays in the United Kingdom is well established and accepted, and the Government has no current plans to change the arrangements.

Not only would it be two-faced of the government to back-pedal only a year later, but I agree with their response. England should continue to build their identity, wear their flag with pride and observe St. George's Day in their own way, but to also remember just what it means to be English. Do you know what it means?

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Eva2008-04-23 13:46:31
Tea and cricket? Beer and football? Pimms and polo?

Emanuel Paparella2008-04-23 14:36:17
Why does an obscure saint become the patron saint of England, Portugal, Georgia, Bulgaria, Serbia, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Macedonia, Catalonia, Moscow; places he never even visited? To be sure April 23 is a commemorative day in the Roman Catholic Rite which explains the commemorative date goomg back to medieval times when Europe had a cultural religious unity, alas no longer there. But perhaps what keeps on grabbing the imagination of many people and nations is the idea that St. George has become an icon of the fight of good vs. evil. It would be enough to think of the plethora of painting of St. George, many from prominent painters. Indeed, when St. George is no longer such an icon and soccer games and common banks have taken its place, we will then know that Western Civilization as we know it is dead.

Lee Thorkhill2008-04-23 18:16:10
Well i've strung up the bunting, painted my face with the cross, i'm humming god save the Queen and i'll be eating roast beef and yorkshire pudding tonight.

Can't beat a bit of national pride!

Daily Mail reader2008-04-23 22:11:55
Today I sat on Bognor beach basking in the sunshine and the glory that is our national day. There I sat with my dragon by my side with the cross of St.George emblazened on my T- shirt eating fish and chips washed down with a pint of warm bitter. Roll on next year come the revolution brothers and what's wrong with having a Grandparents day anyway.

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