St. George is the patron saint of England. His emblem, a red cross on a white background, is the flag of England, and part of the British flag. St George's emblem was adopted by Richard The Lion Heart and brought to England in the 12th century. The king's soldiers wore it on their tunics to avoid confusion in battle.
But, who was the real St George and how come he became the patron saint of England? St George was a brave Roman soldier who protested against the Romans' torture of Christians and died for his beliefs. The popularity of St George in England stems from the time of the early Crusades when it is said that the Normans saw him in a vision and were victorious. Saint George is popularly identified with England and English ideals of honour, bravery and gallantry, but actually he wasn’t English at all. Very little is known about the man who became St George.
St. George is believed to have been born in Cappadocia (now Eastern Turkey) in the year A.D. 270. He was a Christian. At the age of seventeen he joined the Roman army and soon became renowned for his bravery. He served under a pagan Emperor but never forgot his Christian faith.
The Emperor Diocletian gave him many important missions, and it is thought that on one of these he came to England. It was while he was in England that he heard the Emperor was putting all Christians to death and so he returned to Rome to help his brother Christians. He pleaded with the Emperor to spare their lives. Diocletian did all he could to persuade St. George to give up his faith, but he refused and was finally beheaded on 23 April, 303.
In 1222, the Council of Oxford declared April 23 to be St George’s Day and he replaced Edward the Confessor as England’s patron saint in the 14th century. In 1415, April 23 was made a national feast day. St George's Day is not, or certainly has not, been celebrated as other countries celebrate their patron saint.
There was a time from the 15th century when this day was celebrated much in the same way as Christmas. However, that waned towards the 18th century. Still, gradually over recent years the popularity of the tradition has seen a distinct rise in celebrations. So much so that a Member of Parliament has been pushing to make this day a Public Holiday.... hooray!
Some of the customs associated with this day were to wear the red rose but over years fashion has not encouraged this. Another custom wildly adhered to these days is to adorn public places, namely public houses, with the flag of England sporting the red cross on a white background. Remembering that this design makes up part of the Union Jack, the official flag for Britain which encompasses England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
St George is also the patron saint of the scout movement with many scouts taking part in parades on or near the 23 April.
Ironically, England is not the only country to celebrate this auspicious day. Catalonia (Spain), Georgia, Bulgaria, Serbia and Russia being among those that celebrate. In addition, St George is also patron saint of scouts, soldiers, archers, cavalry and chivalry, farmers and field workers, riders and saddlers, and he helps those suffering from leprosy, plague and syphilis.
Now there's a thought!