St George’s Day is celebrated annually to commemorate the anniversary of the patron saint of England’s death in 303 AD. The day was declared a national feast day in 1415 after England’s win at the Battle of Agincourt during the Hundred Years’ War.
But when England unified with Scotland in 1707 — which led to the creation of the United Kingdom — the day was no longer celebrated as a national holiday and further diminished in following centuries.
St George never visited England but was adopted as the nation’s patron saint in 1415 for his bravery and chivalry.
He is often depicted as a fearless English knight who slayed a dragon to rescue a princess but historians believe that he was a Roman soldier born in Cappadocia, in modern-day Turkey, in the late third century.
He is thought to have been tortured and executed in Palestine after refusing to renounce his faith.
He became a Christian martyr after his death and was declared a saint in 494 AD by Pope Gelasius.
Many Christians continue to mark St George’s Day as a significant day with a Feast of St George.
While many other countries celebrate their patron saint’s day with a national holiday, England does not.
Despite numerous calls to make April 23 a bank holiday, businesses continue with normal opening hours.
The Labour Party’s manifestos in the 2017 and 2019 general elections included pledges to introduce four new bank holidays for each of the patron saints of the United Kingdom.
The monarch is the only individual with the power to make a day a national holiday, with the advice of government ministers.
The Queen is yet to issue a Royal Proclamation to make a new bank holiday or change the date of an existing one.
St George’s red and white cross is used as England’s flag and was made a national emblem during Edward I’s reign.
Outside of England, St George’s Day is commemorated in Portugal, Greece, Bulgaria, Georgia, Macedonia, the Palestinian territories and parts of Spain.
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