St George's Day

St George's Day
St George's Day
St George's Day
Saint George oil painting by Raphael
Observed by Nations of which St George is the patron saint
Type National day of England and Georgia
Date 23 April, 24 April, 6 May, 23 November
Observances Flying of the St George's Cross
Related to Feast of Saint George

St George's Day is celebrated by the several nations, kingdoms, countries, and cities of which Saint George is the patron saint. St George's Day is celebrated on 23 April, the traditionally accepted date of Saint George's death in AD 303. For Eastern Orthodox Churches who use the Julian calendar, 23 April corresponds to 6 May on the civil calendar.

As Easter often falls close to St George's Day, the church celebration of the feast may be moved from 23 April. In 2011 and 2014, the Anglican and Catholic calendars celebrate St George's Day on the first Monday after Easter Week (2 May and 28 April, respectively).[1][2][3] The Eastern Orthodox celebration of the feast moves to the Monday of Bright Week.



Countries that celebrate St George's Day include England, Canada, Croatia, Portugal, Cyprus, Greece, Georgia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the Republic of Macedonia. Cities include Moscow in Russia, Genova in Italy, Ljubljana in Slovenia, Beirut in Lebanon, Qormi and Victoria in Malta and many others. It is also celebrated in the old kingdoms and counties of the Crown of Aragon in Spain—Aragon, Catalonia, Valencia, and Palestine.

A woodcut print of St George

St George's Day is known as the Feast of Saint George by Palestinians and is celebrated in the Monastery of Saint George in al-Khader, near Bethlehem. It is also known as Georgemas.[4]

Besides the 23 April feast, some Orthodox Churches have additional feasts dedicated to St George. The country of Georgia celebrates the feast St. George on 23 April and, more prominently, 10 November (Julian Calendar), which currently falls on 6 May and 23 November (Gregorian Calendar), respectively. The Russian Orthodox Church celebrates the dedication of the Church of St George in Kiev by Yaroslav I the Wise in 1051 on 26 November (Julian Calendar), which currently falls on the Gregorian 9 December.

In the General Calendar of the Roman Rite the feast of Saint George is on 23 April. In the Tridentine Calendar it was given the rank of "Semidouble". In Pope Pius XII's 1955 calendar this rank is reduced to "Simple." In Pope John XXIII's 1960 calendar the celebration to just a "Commemoration." In Pope Paul VI's revision of the calendar, that came into force in 1969, it was given the equivalent rank of a "Memorial", of optional use. In some countries, such as England, the rank is higher.

St George's feast is ranked higher in England and in certain other regions. It is the second most important National Feast in Catalonia, where the day is known in Catalan as La Diada de Sant Jordi and it is traditional to give a rose and a book to a loved one.

UNESCO declared this day the International Day of the Book, since 23 April 1616 was the date of death of both the English playwright William Shakespeare (according to the Julian calendar) and the Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes (according to the Gregorian calendar).

In Catholic and Protestant countries


The earliest documented mention of St George in England comes from the venerable Bede (c. 673–735).[5] He is also mentioned in ninth-century liturgy used at Durham Cathedral[6] The will of Alfred the Great is said to refer to the saint, in a reference to the church of Fordington, Dorset.[6] Certainly at Fordington a stone over the south door records the miraculous appearance of St George to lead crusaders into battle.[5] Early (c 10th century) dedications of churches to St George are noted in England, for example at Fordingham, Dorset, at Thetford, Southwark and Doncaster.[6] In 1222 The Synod of Oxford declared St. George's Day a feast day in the kingdom of England.[6] Edward III (1327–1377) put his Order of the Garter (founded c. 1348) under the banner of St. George.[5] This order is still the foremost order of knighthood in England and St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle was built by Edward IV and Henry VII in honour of the order.[5] The badge of the Order shows Saint George on horseback slaying the dragon.[5] Froissart observed the English invoking St. George as a battle cry on several occasions during the Hundred Years' War (1337–1453).[6] Certain English soldiers displayed the pennon of St George[7] In his play Henry V, William Shakespeare famously invokes the Saint at Harfleur prior to the battle of Agincourt (1415): "Follow your spirit, and upon this charge Cry 'God for Harry, England, and Saint George!'" At Agincourt many believed they saw him fighting on the English side.[5]

[1552] wher as it hathe bene of ane olde costome that sent Gorge shulde be kepte holy day thorrow alle Englond, the byshoppe of London commandyd that it shulde not be kepte, and no more it was not.

St George's Day was a major feast and national holiday in England on a par with Christmas from the early 15th century.[8] The Cross of St George was flown in 1497 by John Cabot on his voyage to discover Newfoundland and later by Sir Francis Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh.[9] In 1620 it was the flag that was flown by the Mayflower when the Pilgrim Fathers arrived in Plymouth Massachusetts[10]

The tradition of celebration St George's day had waned by the end of the 18th century after the union of England and Scotland.[11] Nevertheless this timeless link with St George continues today, for example Salisbury holds an annual St George’s Day pageant, the origins of which are believed to go back to the thirteenth century[6] In recent years the popularity of St George's Day appears to be increasing gradually. BBC Radio 3 had a full programme of St George's Day events in 2006, and Andrew Rosindell, Conservative MP for Romford, has been putting the argument forward in the House of Commons to make St George's Day a public holiday. In early 2009 Mayor of London Boris Johnson spearheaded a campaign to encourage the celebration of St George's Day. Today St George's day may be celebrated with anything English from morris dancing to a Punch and Judy show[12] Additional celebrations may involve the commemoration of the 23 April as Shakespeare's birthday/death.

A traditional custom on St George's day is to wear a red rose in one's lapel, though this is no longer widely practised. Another custom is to fly or adorn the St George's Cross flag in some way: pubs in particular can be seen on 23 April festooned with garlands of St George's crosses. It is customary for the hymn "Jerusalem" to be sung in cathedrals, churches and chapels on St George's Day, or on the Sunday closest to it. Traditional English foods and drink (e.g. afternoon tea) may be consumed.

There is a growing reaction to the recent indifference to St George's Day. Organizations such as English Heritage, and the Royal Society of Saint George (a non-political English national society founded in 1894) have been encouraging celebrations. There have also been calls to replace St George as patron saint of England, on the grounds that he was an obscure figure who had no direct connection with the country.[13] However there is no obvious consensus as to whom to replace him with, though names suggested include Edmund the Martyr,[14] Cuthbert of Lindisfarne, or Saint Alban, with the last having topped a BBC Radio 4 poll on the subject.[15]

The date of St George's day changes when it is too close to Easter. According to the Church of England's calendar, when St George's Day falls between Palm Sunday and the Second Sunday of Easter inclusive, it is moved to the Monday after the Second Sunday of Easter.[16][17] In 2011, for example, 23 April is Holy Saturday so St George's Day is moved to Monday 2 May. The Catholic Church in England and Wales has a similar practice.[3]


In Hungary every day is a nameday of one or more names. Some names have several namedays in the calendar, but everyone picks and celebrates only one. 24 April is the day of Saint George the dragonkiller thus it's the nameday of György and Györgyi. It's also the Day of Police.


St George's Day is celebrated throughout Lebanon, but especially in towns and villages where churches for St George have been erected.


Many denominations in Syria celebrate St Georges day especially in Homs Governorate.


Saint George is associated with several areas of Spain. He is the patron saint of the former Crown of Aragon, since King Peter I of Aragon won the Battle of Alcoraz with his patronage.[2] The saint is also patron of several cities. In most cases, the reason for those cities' relation with the Saint as their holy Patron is linked to historic events which happened during the "Reconquista."

Spanish localities

Saint George is the patron saint of several Spanish towns and cities, mainly belonging to the territories added to the old kingdoms of Castille, Leon and Aragon during the "Reconquista". Alcoy, in the present-day Autonomous Community of Valencia, is an example of a locality where Saint George's Day is commemorated as a thanksgiving celebration for the proclaimed aid the Saint provided to the Christians troops fighting the Muslims in the siege of the city. Its citizens commemorate the day with a festivity in which thousands of people parade in medieval costumes, forming two "armies" of Moors and Christians and re-enacting the siege.

Cáceres, in western Spain, has chosen Saint George's patronage since 1229 A.D. Celebration of Saint George's Day in Cáceres is strongly centered in the world of legends. There is a re-enactment parade of Moorish and Christians soldiers but the core of the commemoration focuses mainly on the legend of Saint George slaying a dragon to save a princess ( see: Saint George and the Dragon).


San Jorge´s Day in Plaza de Aragón, Zaragoza (Aragon)

As in the rest of the ancient Crown of Aragon, the Feast of St George is celebrated enthusiastically in the Community of Aragon, being the country's patron saint and its national day. On 23 April, Aragon celebrates its "Día de Aragón" (Day of Aragon) in commemoration of the Battle of Alcoraz (Baralla d'Alcoraz in Aragonese), on which Huesca was conquered by the Aragonese army and in which tradition says that St George appeared at a critical moment for the Christian Army, aiding them to win it for the "True Faith".

As in Catalonia, roses and books are exchanged among individuals, often bearing ribbons with the colors of Aragon's flag.


Roses stall, with Catalan flag
Sant Jordi's cake, in Catalonia

La Diada de Sant Jordi (Catalan pronunciation: [ɫə ðiˈaðə ðə ˈsaɲ ˈʒɔrði], Saint George's Day), also known as El dia de la Rosa (The Day of the Rose) or El dia del Llibre (The Day of the Book) is a Catalan holiday held on 23 April, with similarities to Valentine's Day and some unique twists that reflect the antiquity of the celebrations. The main event is the exchange of gifts between sweethearts, loved ones and respected ones. Historically, men gave women roses, and women gave men a book to celebrate the occasion—"a rose for love and a book forever." In modern times, the mutual exchange of books is also customary. Roses have been associated with this day since medieval times, but the giving of books is a more recent tradition originating in 1923, when a bookseller started to promote the holiday as a way to commemorate the nearly simultaneous deaths of Miguel Cervantes and William Shakespeare on 23 April 1616. Barcelona is the publishing capital of both Catalan and Spanish languages and the combination of love and literacy was quickly adopted.

In Barcelona's most visited street, La Rambla, and all over Catalonia, thousands of stands of roses and makeshift bookstalls are hastily set up for the occasion. By the end of the day, some four million roses and 800,000 books will have been purchased. Most women will carry a rose in hand, and half of the total yearly book sales in Catalonia take place on this occasion.

The sardana, the national dance of Catalonia, is performed throughout the day in the Plaça Sant Jaume in Barcelona. Many book stores and cafes host readings by authors (including 24-hour marathon readings of Cervantes' "Don Quixote"). Street performers and musicians in public squares add to the day's atmosphere.

23 April is also the only day of the year when the Palau de la Generalitat, Barcelona's principal government building, is open to the public. The interior is decorated with roses to honour Saint George.

Catalonia exported its tradition of the book and the rose to the rest of the world. In 1995, the UNESCO adopted 23 April as World Book and Copyright Day.


Valencia celebrates St George's Day with different intensity but in several zones it has similarities to Valentine's Day, like in Catalonia. Saint George is a blessing day, and people gather all around for his blessing.


St. George's Day is celebrated on 23 April. St. George's Day is not an official national holiday in Canada. It is, however, a provincial holiday in Newfoundland, where it is usually observed on the Monday nearest 23 April

Orthodox countries

An Orthodox icon showing Saint George

If St George's Day (or any Saint's Day) falls during Holy Week or on Easter Day it is observed on Easter Monday.


Georgians call St George's day Giorgoba (Georgian: გიორგობა, "[the day] of George). It is celebrated every year on 6 May ("the Day of Decapitation") and 23 November ("the Torture on a Wheel"; both on Gregorian Calendar). The 23 November feast is celebrated more prominently and is a public holiday.


Roast lamb, a traditional dish on St George's Day in Bulgaria

Possibly the most celebrated name day in the country, St George's Day (Гергьовден, Gergyovden) is a public holiday that takes place on 6 May each year. A common ritual is to prepare and eat a whole lamb, which is an ancient practice possibly related to Slavic pagan sacrificial traditions and the fact that St George is the patron saint of shepherds.

St George's Day is also the Day of the Bulgarian Army, made official with a decree of Knyaz Alexander of Bulgaria on 9 January 1880. Parades are organised in the capital Sofia to present the best of the army's equipment and manpower.


In Serbian St George's Day is called Đurđevdan (Cyrillic: Ђурђевдан) and is celebrated on 6 May every year, as the Serbian Orthodox Church uses the Julian, Old Style Calendar. St George's Day is one of the most common Slavas (family patron day) among the Serbs, celebrated not only in Serbia, but also in Montenegro, Republika Srpska and other Serbian lands. Đurđevdan is also celebrated by both Orthodox and Muslim Roma and Muslim Gorani. Đurđevdan is celebrated, especially, in the areas of Raška in Serbia. Apart from being the Slava of many families, St George's Day is marked by morning picnics, music, and folk dances.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

In Bosnia and Herzegovina St George's Day is also called Đurđevdan and is celebrated by Bosnian Serbs and Roma (both Orthodox and Muslim), but also has been celebrated by the other ethnic groups in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Đurđevdan's widespread appeal can be seen in the folk song Đurđevdan popularised by Bijelo Dugme as well as Meša Selimović's novel Death and the Dervish.

Albania and Kosovo

In Albania and Kosovo , St George's day is celebrated among Albanians as a day of joy and believing in God; people will go out and build a fire and play around it, and they will bless their houses, fields, their children and everything around them with water as if it were holy water. St George's Day in Albania and Kosovo is celebrated on 6 May and is called Shën Gjergji or Shëngjergji and is a day where people celebrate the blessing of God.[citation needed]


Russian Orthodox Church, which uses Julian Calendar, has two important feasts of Saint George. Besides 23 April (6 May Gregorian Calendar) feast, common for all Christendom, Russians also celebrate the anniversary of the dedication of the Church of St George in Kiev by Yaroslav I the Wise (1051) of 26 November (Julian Calendar), which currently falls on 9 December. One of the Russian forms of the name George being Yuri, the two feasts are popularly known as Vesenniy Yuriev Den (Yuri's Day in the Spring) and Osenniy Yuriev Den (Yuri's Day in the Fall).


The Scout movement has been celebrating St George's Day on 23 April since its first years, and St George is the patron saint of many other organizations.

References in literature

In the book Dracula by Bram Stoker, evil things are said to occur on St George's Day, beginning at midnight. The date of St George's Day presented in the book, 5 May (on the Western, Gregorian Calendar), is St George's Day as observed by the Eastern Orthodox churches.

(Excerpt from Dracula, 1897) "Do you know what day it is?" I answered that it was the fourth of May. She shook her head as she said again: "Oh, yes! I know that, I know that! but do you know what day it is?" On my saying that I did not understand, she went on: "It is the eve of St. George's Day. Do you not know that tonight, when the clock strikes midnight, all the evil things in the world will have full sway?"

Jerusalem (play) The play "Jerusalem" (2009) by Jez Butterworth takes place on St George's Day, 23 April, also the birthday and deathday of William Shakespeare.


  1. ^ The Church of England (2011-04-22). "The Calendar: Rules to Order the Christian Year". Common Worship. Retrieved 2011-04-22.
  2. ^ The Church of England (2011-04-22). "The Calendar: Table of Transferences". Common Worship. Retrieved 2011-04-22.
  3. ^ a b The Catholic Church in England and Wales (2011-04-22). "Liturgical Calendar: May 2011." Liturgy and Ordo 2010–2011. Retrieved 2011-04-22.
  4. ^ Funk & Wagnalls New Standard Dictionary of the English Language (New York, 1943, p. 1023).
  5. ^ a b c d e f "Religions – Christianity: Saint George". BBC. 31 July 2009. Retrieved 17 October 2011. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f [1][dead link]
  7. ^ "Froissart: The English in Portugal Mutiny". Retrieved 17 October 2011. 
  8. ^ Tradition English Festivals
  9. ^ "A History of Saint Goerge". Retrieved 17 October 2011. 
  10. ^ "A History of Saint Goerge". Retrieved 17 October 2011. 
  11. ^ McSmith, Andy (23 April 2009). "Who is St George?". The Independent (London). Retrieved 2010-04-23. 
  12. ^ "How to celebrate St Georges Day – celebration event". 6 November 2007. Retrieved 17 October 2011. 
  13. ^ Crutchlow, Dayle (2006-07-05). "Hands off our patron saint, by George!". Coventry Telegraph. Retrieved 2008-08-17. 
  14. ^ A new Patron Saint of England? (2008-06-26). "Suffolk – Community – A new Patron Saint of England?". BBC. Retrieved 2010-04-23. 
  15. ^ "Radio 4 – Today – St Alban". BBC. Retrieved 2010-04-23. 
  16. ^ The Church of England (2011-04-22). "The Calender: Rules to Order the Christian Year". Common Worship. Retrieved 2011-04-22.
  17. ^ The Church of England (2011-04-22). "The Calender: Table of Transferences". Common Worship. Retrieved 2011-04-22.

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