St George’s Day traditions – from flying the flag to Morris dancing and Punch and Judy shows – The Sun

ST George's Day 2020 is here – meaning it's time to dust off the flag and celebrate the patron saint of England.

The heroic soldier slayed a dragon and now we celebrate each year with quintessentially English traditions, although these should be practised at home following lockdown measures.

Who was St George?

Although Saint George is England’s patron saint, George would likely have been a soldier somewhere in the eastern Roman Empire, probably in what is now Turkey – if he ever existed.

He is also the patron saint of Ethiopia, Georgia and Portugal, and cities such as Freiburg, Moscow and Beirut.

The well-known story of the dragon mainly comes down to the Golden Legend – a popular collection of saints’ lives written in the 13th century.

According to one version, a town in Libya had a small lake inhabited by a dragon infected with the plague.

Many of the townsfolk were being killed by the dragon so they started feeding it two sheep a day to appease it.

When the town ran out of sheep, legend has it that the king devised a lottery system to feed the hungry dragon local children instead.

But, one day his own daughter was chosen and as she was being led down to the lake Saint George happened to ride past.

The story says that George offered to slay the dragon but only if the people converted to Christianity.

They did, and the king later built a church where the dragon was slain.

What is St George's Day?

The feast day of Saint George is celebrated by various Christian Churches and several countries and cities where Saint George is the patron saint – including England.

The day is remembered on April 23 each year – this is the date traditionally accepted of his death in AD 303.

While St Patrick's Day and St Andrew's Day are bank holidays in Ireland and Scotland respectively, St George's Day is sadly NOT a bank holiday in England.

What St George's Day traditions are there?

In the past, a traditional custom on Saint George's Day was to wear a red rose in your lapel – but not many people practise this anymore.

More popular customs include flying the Saint George's Cross flag, with English pubs often festooned with them.

In cathedrals, churches and chapels on Saint George’s Day it is common for the hymn Jerusalem to be sung.

We celebrate the day with anything involving English traditions – including morris dancing and fetes.

The odd Punch & Judy show can also be seen and there are also town crier contests.

Many places across England also host a feast with traditional fare and some areas hold theatre events, jousting and re-enactments.

Following lockdown measures, there are plenty of St George's Day services online, either prerecorded or available to stream live.

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