British Billy celebrates St. George's Day
By British Billy, 48th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published April 20, 2011
ROYAL AIR FORCE LAKENHEATH, England -- My mission in life is to guard and protect my territory, and I am proud to say that last week I was able to vanquish a nine-inch rat and leave its sorry carcass at the back door for my nearest and dearest to find. Imagine their delight!
It may not be in the league of St. George and his defeat of the dastardly dragon, but I think it is fairly impressive for my size nevertheless.
St. George is the patron saint of England, and April 23 is St. George's Day.
St. George is most commonly associated with the legend of St. George and the Dragon. In the mythical tale, St. George obtained glory by slaying a dragon that was terrorising the countryside and was about to eat a beautiful princess. St. George survived the ordeal by invoking the sign of the cross.
As a mark of their gratitude, the local citizens all converted to Christianity and sought to copy St. George's chivalrous, princess-saving behaviour.
The myth of St. George and the Dragon is a very old one, but the idea of George as the nation's patron saint probably gained popularity around William Shakespeare's time. In Shakespeare's play "Henry V", the English troops are famously rallied with the cry, "God for Harry, England and St. George!"(Act III, Scene I).
St. George's emblem, a red cross on a white background, is the flag of England, and forms 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.
Although St. George is popularly identified with England and English ideals of honour, bravery and gallantry, he wasn't actually English at all.
St. George is believed to have been born in Cappadocia (now Eastern Turkey) in 270 A.D. and was a Christian. At the age of 17, he joined the Roman army and soon became renowned for his bravery. He served under a pagan emperor but never forgot his Christian faith.
When the pagan Emperor Diocletian started persecuting Christians, St. George pleaded with the Emperor to spare their lives. However, St. George's pleas fell on deaf ears, and it is thought that the Emperor Diocletian tried to make St. George deny his faith in Christ by torturing him. St. George showed incredible courage and faith and was finally beheaded near Lydda in Palestine on April 23, 303 A.D..
St. George seems to have become popular in England after the Crusades in the 11th century. An apparition of St. George is said to have appeared to the crusader army at the Battle of Antioch in 1098, and was believed to have assured their victory.
In 1222, the Council of Oxford declared April 23 to be St. George's Day and St. George replaced Edward the Confessor as England's patron saint in the 14th century. In 1415, April 23 was made a national feast day.
Celebrations of St. George's Day are usually quite low-key compared to those for St. Patrick's Day, but some will mark the day by wearing red roses in their lapels and raising the flag of St. George outside their home or business.
If you fancy celebrating St. George's Day, then why not start off with a full English breakfast -- which is traditionally bacon, poached or fried eggs, fried or grilled tomatoes, fried mushrooms, fried bread or toast with butter and sausages, all washed down with a mug of tea -- and then head for the St. George's Day concert in London's historic Trafalgar Square on April 23 between 1 and 6 p.m. It promises to be a thrilling afternoon of live music that includes new musicians, award-winning buskers and musical theatre.
Even though St. George's dragon-slaying exploits may be more fiction than fact, such mythical tales of courage and daring still stir my feline heart as I go forth and slay the small dragons that face me each day. See those rodents flee!