St. George’s Day in the United Kingdom

St George’s Day in England remembers St George, England’s patron saint. The anniversary of his death, which is on April 23, is seen as England’s national day. According to legend, he was a soldier in the Roman army who killed a dragon and saved a princess.

Celebrate St George’s Day

St George’s Day used to be a national holiday in England. It is now an observance that is celebrated with parades, dancing and other activities. Flags with the image of St George’s cross are flown on some buildings, especially pubs, and a few people wear a red rose on their lapel. Church services on the Sunday closest to April 23 often include the hymn ‘Jerusalem’, written by the poet William Blake. The words describe a supposed visit to Glastonbury, England, by Jesus Christ during his youth.

Public Life

April 23 is not a public holiday. Schools, stores, post offices, businesses and other organizations are open as usual. Public transport services run to their usual timetables.

About St George’s Day

St George was born sometime around the year 280 in what is now Turkey. He was a soldier and rose up through the ranks of the Roman army, eventually becoming a personal guard to the Emperor Diocletian. He was executed for being a Christian on April 23, 303, and is buried in the town of Lod in Israel.

St George is most widely known for slaying a dragon. According to legend, the only well in the town of Silene was guarded by a dragon. In order to get water, the inhabitants of the town had to offer a human sacrifice every day to the dragon. The person to be sacrificed was chosen by lots. On the day that St George was visiting, a princess had been selected to be sacrificed. However, he killed the dragon, saved the princess and gave the people of Silene access to water. In gratitude, they converted to Christianity. It is thought that the dragon represents a certain type of pagan belief that included the sacrifice of human beings.

St George’s Day was once celebrated as widely as Christmas. But the celebrations waned by the end of the 18th century after England had united with Scotland on May 1, 1707. In recent times, there has been a push, involving campaigns and petitions, to make the day a public holiday in England.

St George is the patron saint of a number of other places, such as Bulgaria, Ethiopia, Georgia, Greece, Portugal and Russia. He is also remembered in some regional holidays, such as in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador in Canada and among the Gorani people who live in a mountainous area in the Balkans and were converted to Islam many centuries ago, but still observe St George’s Day. Around the world, a number of days are devoted to St George, including April 23 and dates in November and December of the Gregorian calendar.

Symbols

The most widely recognized symbol of St George’s Day is St George’s cross. This is a red cross on a white background, which is often displayed as a flag. It is used as England’s national flag, forming part of the Union Flag, the national flag of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Saint George’s cross was originally the flag of the maritime Republic of Genoa. Around 1190, the King of England started paying the Doge of Genoa to protect ships originally from the city of London and the rest of England that sailed in the Mediterranean.

During the crusades in the 1100s and 1200s, English knights used St George’s cross as part of their uniform. It has been the official flag of England for centuries, but the Union Flag, a combination of St George’s cross, St Andrew’s cross and St Patrick’s cross, is the national flag of the United Kingdom. Now Saint George’s cross is used as a national symbol by fans of the English national football, rugby and cricket teams. At international matches, flags and scarves bearing this cross are worn and people paint it on their faces. It is also has a prominent place on the arms of the City of London and the flags of the city of Barcelona, Spain, and the country of Georgia.

Source: Time And Date

6 Facts About Boxing Day

Boxing Day

Relax, Hallmark conspiracy theorists: Boxing Day isn’t some prank to confuse America. It’s a real holiday in the United Kingdom and other European countries that dates back to the days of Queen Victoria.

1. BOXING DAY OCCURS ON DECEMBER 26TH.

Boxing Day is observed annually on December 26. If it falls on a weekend, the public holiday itself will be celebrated on Monday. It became an official holiday during the reign of Queen Victoria, though some historians trace its origins back much further—to medieval times. Today, it’s largely an extension of the Christmas holiday and a big day for sporting events and shopping.

2. NO ONE REALLY KNOWS WHERE THE NAME ‘BOXING DAY’ ORIGINATED.

Many historians think the holiday’s name is derived from the church practice of opening alms boxes the day after Christmas and distributing money to the poor. Historically, British employers followed the church’s lead by sliding workers and servants gifts or cash on December 26.

Others believe the “box” refers to the boxes of gifts employers gave to their servants on the day after Christmas. (In wealthy households, servants were often required to work on Christmas Day but given December 26th off in order to celebrate the holiday on their own.)

3. BOXING DAY IS A BIG DAY FOR SHOPPING.

Historically, Boxing Day’s post-Christmas sales have long made it one of the U.K.’s busiest shopping days of the year. And while it still falls within the top five biggest shopping days of the year, the popularity of online shopping has reduced the overall spending people do on December 26.

“Fifteen years ago it was pretty much guaranteed that you would only get big sales a few times a year—Boxing Day and the big summer clearance,” Bryan Roberts, an analyst at Kantar Retail, told The Telegraph in 2015. That is no longer the case.”

“The Boxing Day sales are pretty much dead,” Roberts added. “Black Friday and Cyber Monday illustrate Christmas sales are starting earlier and earlier. There is a possibility prices will just keep on dropping in the run-up to Christmas. This makes the Boxing Day sales incredibly diluted.”

4. THERE IS NO BOXING INVOLVED IN BOXING DAY.

Despite the name, British observances of Boxing Day involve no fisticuffs. For patricians, however, another sport rules the day: fox hunting. Though it’s a long-held tradition, many animal rights activists and groups would like to see the practice done away with altogether. Especially since, technically, it’s illegal. In the days leading up to Boxing Day, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) is often very vocal in reminding citizens that “The chasing or killing of foxes and other British mammals with a pack of dogs was banned because the overwhelming majority of the UK public rejected this so-called ‘sport’ as cruel and abhorrent.”

5. SOME OTHER COUNTRIES DO TAKE THE NAME MORE LITERALLY.

In other countries, Boxing Day celebrations are more literal. Some former British colonies in Africa and the Caribbean celebrate the holiday with prizefighting events.

6. IN IRELAND, DECEMBER 26TH IS SOMETIMES KNOWN AS WREN DAY.

Ireland sometimes refers to December 26 as Wren Day, a nod to an old tradition in which poor children would kill a wren, then sell the feathers to neighbors for good luck. In today’s celebrations, the wren is fake.

Source: 6 Facts About Boxing Day

Halloween: England’s strange and ancient winter rituals 

There is more to the “dark season” than Halloween, as these traditional English rituals show.

There are men who carry flaming barrels of tar through a Devon village, folk who pour cider over apple tree roots and cross-dressing troupes who perform something called Soul Caking to ward off evil spirits.

There is also a village in Somerset called Hinton St George which has a tradition of pumpkin carving and night-time walks that sounds remarkably similar to the Halloween rituals we all know. [ . . . ]

Read More at: Halloween: England’s strange and ancient winter rituals – BBC News

Is it just me? I thought Love Actually was rubbish

The top five Christmas movies to boost your festive spirit

We get it, Christmas can be stressful. Even the most organized of people can feel overwhelmed – and when your to-do list is longer than your arm, it can be difficult to get into the Christmas spirit. The solution? You need a night at home, glass of mulled wine in hand, and a Christmas movie on the TV…Despite the fact that British film Love Actually was never really supposed to be a Christmas movie (find out more about that here), it’s become tradition to watch it every time December rolls around (or November, depending on how festive you’re feeling). Featuring eight or nine subplots, a brilliant soundtrack and a host of respected actors, the pressure of a big budget means it could easily have been a disaster. Instead, it turned out to be 136 minutes of uplifting, heart-warming soppiness. We love it.

Is it just me? I thought Love Actually sucked. What do you think?

Read the fully story: The top five Christmas movies to boost your festive spirit