Poll: Should we do more to mark St George’s Day?

It’s St George’s Day on Monday but unlike St Patrick’s Day in Ireland or St Andrew’s Day in Scotland the English don’t really celebrate their patron saint – we think we should. Today we urge everybody to raise the cross of St George in celebration of England’s patron saint.

In 2006, the Scottish Parliament passed the St Andrew’s Day Bank Holiday (Scotland) Act 2007.

The act means that every year on November 30 the workers of Scotland have a day off to celebrate their patron saint.

On March 17, Irish pubs all over the world celebrate St Patrick with plenty of Guinness and dressing up.

But not much happens on April 23 – well not that much.

The celebration of St George’s Day is pretty low key. You might spot the odd St George’s flag and there might be the odd event to celebrate Englishness but it is far from a national outpouring of patriotism. The Ipswich Star has long since advocated proper celebrations for England’s patron saint.

Here at the newspaper and among our online community, we believe we should hold our English heads high and mark April 23 with the panache and style it deserves. England has nothing to be ashamed of and St George is the ultimate and ancient symbol of our nation.

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But who was St George?

According to tradition he was born into a noble family in Cappadocia in what is now Turkey, in about the year 280 AD.

After a glittering military career, St George was martyred for his refusal to convert to the pagan gods of Rome.

He was beheaded at Nicomedia near Lyddia in Palestine on the 23rd of April in the year 303 AD.

Popular as a source of inspiration with crusaders, St George’s reputation grew and in the year 1348 King Edward Ill established the Knights of the Garter, which is the oldest order of Chivalry in Europe. The Order of the Garter was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Edward the Confessor and St George.

By the beginning of the 15th century, St George had become England’s patron saint and St George’s day was a major feast day.

But after the union of England and Scotland more than 300 years ago celebrations of St George’s Day waned and fell out of fashion.

And it is, perhaps, no coincidence that the devolution of Scotland and growing Scottish nationalism is resulting in a resurgence of English nationalism and a gradual increase in St George’s Day celebrations in recent years.

And of course the cross of St George remains very visible in the world of football. England supporters paint their faces red and white and wrap themselves in the St George’s Cross as a overt sign of affiliation to the English national team.

However, more disturbing is the use of the flag by the far right – something that may make many reluctant to display the cross of St George.

So should we English celebrate St George’s Day with a bank holiday like the Scots or the drunken revelry of the Irish?

Founded in 1894, The Royal Society of St George certainly thinks so and includes among its aims the ambition “To further English interest everywhere to ensure that St George’s Day is properly celebrated and to provide focal points all the world over where English men and women may gather together.”

John Stannard, president of the East Anglian branch of the society since it was founded in 1994, said St George’s Day is one of a number of days celebrated by the society during the year. He said the society will be holding a traditional roast beef dinner at a Lowestoft hotel to mark the occasion.

He said: “We will toast the beef and remember for one day of the year that England has a patron saint that we should be proud of.

“St George’s Day is one of England’s traditions that should be upheld. St George is part and parcel of England and the English should be as proud of its heritage as are other nations. It is great to be British but we are English and proud of it.”