Home Events Happy St George’s Day to all our readers

Happy St George’s Day to all our readers

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It’s England’s national day today, so happy St. George’s Day to all our readers in England. And, following the example of the Irish with their Saint Patrick, we also wish everyone else in the world a happy St. George’s Day. Sadly, today as on other national days in the past few decades, poor old George will be neglected. He doesn’t even warrant a public holiday in these parts. In the past this day was celebrated widely and, so I read, was once on par with Christmas as a festival.

Rival holy beings of these islands – Patrick, Andrew and Dewi Sant – are feted with some vigour and, particularly in the case of Patrick, he’s the subject of parades, shamrocks and suchlike. Nothing much seems to happen to celebrate the name day our very own Greek/Roman soldier who met a sticky end (as did most ancient saints) in CE 303. He, with his fabled dragon, was an early symbol of England – and of many other countries, incidentally, including Greece.

Strangely, our national day is also the official birthday of one of England’s most famous sons, William Shakespeare who was born in 1564. The exact date isn’t known, although he was baptised on April 26, and I suppose it is more than coincidence that April 23 was chosen for Shakespeare celebrations. He did indeed have a lot to say about England, from time to time. And, perhaps in these troubled COVID-19 days, we should remember his words:

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more… Cry ‘God for Harry, England, and Saint George!

— Shakespeare, Henry V

Where George is Γιώργος

St. George Slaying the Dragon by Albrecht Dürer (Wiki Commons)

The Greeks are much better at it than the English of the 21st century. The Orthodox system of celebrating name days is one of the most endearing and practical of traditions. If you are Greek, you have the ideal opportunity to wish all your friends well and the instinct is baked into the national psyche.

Every George in Greece will today be feted by his friends and family. He will receive countless texts with the ubiquitous greeting “chronia polla” – χρόνια πολλά which is also used on other festive occasions – and will find his phone buzzing repeatedly with good wishes. It’s a day to look forward to, something special.

The reason is that it’s an easy day to remember. April 23 is St. George’s Day and everyone in Greece knows that instinctively. So it is essential to send greetings and good wishes to every George you know, even casual acquaintances. It’s much easier than trying to remember birthdays, for instance, and it is an occasion to be in touch with all the Georges in your life.

I rather like it and I think it should be adopted throughout the world. I get a shedload of chronia-pollas on St. Michael’s Day from all my Greek friends. They may not have a clue when I was born but know instinctively that good old Μιχάλη is just waiting in London for a raft of good wishes on his name day.

There is one big downside about today, though, if you happen to be both George (or Georgia) and Greek. Every Γιώργος in Hellas and Melbourne is expected to dig deep in his pockets and take all his close friends and family out to dinner. If he’s lucky, especially in smaller communities, the cost can be shared among all known Georges in a communal celebration.

In comparison, we in England are pretty bad at remembering our own patron saint. Every year, I get good wishes from William Fagan and others of Irish descent on St. Patrick’s Day, so why can’t we do the same for sidelined George?

So come on, George old chap, where’s my dinner this evening? Chronia polla, old bean!

11 COMMENTS

  1. Happy St George’s Day, Mike, and Happy Shakespeare’s ‘Birthday’. Whatever about his actual birth date, Shakespeare passed away on the 23rd of April, so it is fitting to celebrate the great man today. My wife, Laura, who you met in Wetzlar, is a great fan of the Bard and goes with a group of friends to Stratford Upon Avon at regular intervals. She is disappointed that this year’s trip has been cancelled.

    The connection between St George and England has always been unclear to me. I always thought it had something to do with the Crusades, but it seems he was venerated long before they took place. St Patrick came from your side of the pond and Cumbria, Wales and Scotland have been named as candidates for his origin. He is rightly celebrated as the person who brought Christianity to Ireland and is celebrated by all Christian traditions here on both sides of the Border. He is not really a symbol of nationalism, but rather one of Christianity and Irish Identity. He is celebrated around the world, wherever the Irish diaspora exists. There many millions around the globe who are of Irish descent or who identify as Irish. These are joined by hundreds of millions who would like to be Irish. We have massive St Patrick’s Day parades in cities like New York and the Chicago river is dyed green every year. In recent years this (not sure if it is as a result of ‘push publicity’ or ‘pull appropriation’) has spread into the ‘greening’ of buildings around the world from the Auckland Tower, the Sydney Opera House, Government Buildings in Delhi (the Indian Flag was modelled on the Irish Flag) to the Colosseum in Rome and the Brandenburg Gate. There are some aspects of St Patrick’s Day which I dislike. I call them ‘shamroguery’ and they include giant leprechauns, shillelaghs and the reverential handing of a bowl of shamrock to the US President. Then there is the drinking, but I do admit to lining up a Guinness and a whiskey every St Patrick’s Day in order to ‘Drown the Shamrock’.

    After hearing all that, you should be glad to have a quiet St George’s Day. And the Bard of Avon should be rightly celebrated not only today, but on every day of the year. I gave my wife a book about Shakespeare last year. It was the title which caught my eye. It was called ‘The Book of William’.

    William

    • Ah! Do you remember “Just William”, the books by Richmal Compton? I used to delight in William’s adventures although, by nature, I have always been a Goody Two Shoes.

      St. Patrick has indeed become a huge franchise, unlike George. Unfortunately, patriotism seems to be rather frowned upon in England, unlike in Scotland, Wales and Ireland. It’s probably all the doing of the woke brigade. I remain resolutely un-woke, probably because of my generation. Anyway, thanks for your good wishes.

      • I remember ‘Just William’ but, I was more of a Billy Bunter man myself. I could be wrong, but, in Scotland, Robbie Burns seems to be more celebrated than St Andrew. I have attended many a nice Burns Supper myself with haggis, tatties and neaps and with the men retiring afterwards for single malts. It was quite close to a religious experience. I was even asked one time by the host, who was from Mauchline, to recite some of the poem ‘Holy Willie’s Prayer’. It seems that ‘Holy Willie’ Fisher was an elder of the kirk in Mauchline who was found dead in a ditch with a bottle of whisky.

        William

        • One of my favourite quotes comes from Burns. Was it Ode to the Mouse?

          O wad some Power the giftie gie us, to see oursels as ithers see us!”

          It’s a powerful self-chastisement when we think we are getting above ourselves. And it is very true.

  2. Raising a Bourbon in the direction of the Dragon slaying George. The one thing I have found enjoyable about Covid lockdown is trying Bourbons, as I dont need to drive in the morning – as driving from the bedroom to my mobile office in the house takes about five minutes, six if I go via the kettle, and there is no risk of drink driving.

    I am just warming up my clap hands for eight tonight too, and the chap over the road is warming up his bugle for the NHS. Yes folks you are reading that right, on week one he played the last post – bit tasteless to say the least, but by week 2 we had educated him to play something more sincere. The chap in the flat below him joins in now on the saucepan with a wooden spoon. It is sort of a mini street event.

    Thank you for this one Mike, and I will raise a glass in your general direction later.

    Stay safe folks.

  3. Well written, Michael. To listen to many of those in the metropolitan liberal bubble as well as many on the BBC and in the Universities, national pride is to be praised and encouraged by any other nation on earth but NOT by the English, in whom such sentiments are to be scorned as out of date imperialism at best or downright racism at worst.
    Fortunately the majority of people in this country have shown they have a modest pride in our wonderful country. We have strengths and weaknesses like every other nation but we won’t be bullied by an arrogant liberal elite minority into feeling ashamed of England..
    Our aim now is to be properly proud of our country but as a true part of the world community, including but not restricted to Europe!
    Thank you Michael for a timely reminder.. I raise a glass to St George.

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