Monday, April 23, 2012

Curious (About) George?

Happy St. George's Day!

The day that St. George, the patron saint of England, died and thus is celebrated each year.

So saith, and you can learn a bit more about his encounter with dragons here.

We typically wish each other a happy day and have something yummy and English (synonymous, really) for dinner. Stuart insists that every holiday that revolves around an English saint involves wings -- this one being no exception -- but I'm thinking something more along the lines of pork pie might be in order this year.

The photo is from Ethan's first St. George's Day in 2009. He's not quite ready for knighthood yet, but he could be the Knight of Sweetness, maybe?

We read quite a bit about St. Patrick this year, trying to understand him as a man. So I looked up something on St. George, too, and here it is... A bit of background on the man behind the holiday from the website

St George - The Man

Hard facts are hard to come by, but what is know is that St George was a Roman soldier who was tortured to death in the Holy Land around 300AD for refusing to renounce his faith. Apart from this much of the rest of his life remains shrouded in mystery and even his nationality is uncertain although he was probably Turkish or possibly Palestinian. He certainly wasn't English but then again St Patrick isn't Irish and St Andrew isn't a Scot.

The English are not the only people to stake a claim to him. In the Middle East, Christians invoke his powers to exorcise demons. In many countries St George is associated with fertility and his day marks the beginning of summer. In Lithuania he is revered as the guardian of animals and in parts of Spain his day is celebrated with feasts and gift giving.
From the middle ages his cross had become the flag of London, Durham, Lincoln, Rochester and York as well as England itself. Tales of St George were brought back with the early crusaders and with his story, even at that time being so vague he could be made to fit more comfortably with the violence of England's warlike kings than many of his more pacifist counterparts.

The later crusades really cemented George's status and in 1191, Richard the Lionheart was reputed to have discovered his tomb at Lod in present day Israel. During the 11th century siege of Antioch he is said to have appeared to the crusaders, as a knight dressed in white robes decorated with a red cross urging the men forward and again 800 years later British troops reported sightings of him on the western front.

Fact or fiction, with the tale of his slaying of the dragon, St George represents the victory of good over evil and touches something very deep and potent in the English psyche.

The legend of St George is probably best summed up by William Cook who finishes a book review of St George by saying: "You are left with a strong suspicion that, even though most of this tale is surely legend, something incredible really did happen in Palestine 1,700 years ago - well worth a round of drinks on 23 April".

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