Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Feast of St. George: April 23rd

"St. George and the Dragon" by Raphael

St. George was a Roman martyr of the early Church. A skilled and valiant soldier, one of the pagan Emperor Diocletian's favorites, George had everything he needed to lead a privileged life of wealth and honor in Rome. But, George became a Christian, and rather than bow to his emperor, he chose to boldly defend the Truth of the Lord. This is why George is often depicted slaying a dragon and saving a lady. The dragon represents evil, the anti-Christian violence of Diocletian's Rome, lies, and attempts at intimidation against the faithful; the lady symbolizes God's Truth. St. George was martyred for his faith and has always been a favorite saint of the Church, particularly among soldiers. He is the patron saint of England.

Celebrating St. George's feastday is a wonderful opportunity to engage that very active little boy who thinks there isn't a saint in the whole history of the Church that he can relate to. George, though a holy martyr, was a man of action. Unlike many other saints, he was neither a scholar nor a contemplative. He served God in action, with his very life, on the battlefield at war and on the battlefield of righteousness as he strove to uphold God's Truth even in the face of violent adversity. St. George is a shining example to us all that the Truth is worth defending--even if it means we lose everything--even if it means we must die for it.

Here are some fun ways to celebrate this great saint with your family today:

  • Decorate the house with red streamers or other red decorations to symbolize George's martrydom.
  • Make or purchase a Battenburg cake, a traditional English dessert connected with St. George.
  • Make and hang St. George's Cross flags (a red cross on a white background) as they do in England.
  • Speaking of St. George's Cross, these flags are now so associated with the British sports of cricket and rugby, that you just might want to head out to the park or the backyard and have a go at a game or two! One team can represent St. George, in red, and the other, the dragon, in green!
  • Gather the family to sing "Jerusalem," the hymn set to William Blake's timeless lyrics, as many churches do in England.
  • Tell the story of St. George. If you know of some good picture books telling about him, do pass them on to me, as I don't currently have a resource for this.
  • Make or purchase some jelly donuts (it's got to be red jelly, though!) and then have fun "slaying" them with the kids over breakfast or afternoon tea.
  • In England, St. George's Day is also simply a day of national pride, much like St. Patrick's Day is for the Irish. If you're English or of English descent, as our family is, use this day to talk to your children about your heritage and why it is important to you.
  • St. George is also the patron of Catalonia, Spain, where he is known as St. Jordi. In Catalonia, St. Jordi's Day is alternately called The Day of the Rose or The Day of the Book, and is something like Valentine's Day here in the United States. Historically, men would give roses to their sweethearts and women would give their lovers books. Personally, I love the book tradition--and the story behind it: It stems from the nearly simultaneous deaths of Shakespeare and Miguel de Cervantes on April 23 (St. George's Day) in 1616. A bookseller, in 1923, capitalized on this coincidence, and the book-giving tradition was born. Formerly, only the tradition of men giving roses was observed, as it has been since medieval times.
  • Another tradition in Catalonia that is connected with the strange literary deaths on St. Jordi's Day is the reading of Miguel de Cervantes' classic "Don Quixote"--another brave Christian knight who fought for righteousness, albeit more humorously. You might want to join in the fun and read a chapter or two with your family.
  • Make a paper dragon with your kids. Have every family member write down some of their spiritual "dragons" on green, paper "scales" and glue them onto the dragon as you each discuss what they are. Consider saying a prayer for overcoming these "dragons" as (or before) they are pasted on to the paper dragon. When you're all done, pray for God's grace and strength, and toss the dragon into the fireplace! If it's warm enough, and your neighborhood permits it, you might even want to celebrate with a bonfire outside, instead, for the burning of the dragon.
  • Talk to your children about how they can defend God's Truth, as St. George did. Ask them what some of their favorite Truths are; find Scripture verses that illustrate these Truths. Are these Truths being lived out in our world today, or are do they need defenders? Discuss the importance of being there to defend God and His Word when others around us might wish to deny them.
  • Alternatively, you can put some of your favorite Truths and corresponding verses in a bag and have the children draw one or two out. Then, you can have a "Scripture Treasure Hunt" and share the verses with the other family members. Have the children draw a picture or write a story about their Truths.

"Follow your spirit; and, upon this charge, Cry 'God for Harry, England and St George!'" - Henry V, IIIi


  1. I have a flag over my desk as I write, that my boss put there. I didn't know St George's Day was remembered outside of England. You have lots of interesting ideas in this post.

  2. Also just fyi, St George's day coincides with William Shakespeare's "birthday" (the actual date is fuzzy so today is when it's recognized). Another, completely different, great man to celebrate today!

  3. Bethany--
    Don't know if you follow "Sun & Candlelight", but she's got a wonderful homeschooling/homekeeping blog and includes some great reading suggestions on the side. In fact, she also posted on St. George today:


  4. Lara- Thanks for the link :) I did enjoy her post. And, she had a link to just the sort of picture book I was looking for to add to our family's library... I will have to be sure to order it before Michaelmas, when we learn about St. George again :)

  5. Beth,

    Margaret Hodges made a lovely picture book, "St. George and the Dragon" some years ago-it was one of my favorites as a young child. The illustrations are beautiful.

    Hope you're well.



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