To arms for St. George & International Day of the Book

MONDAY, APRIL 23: Images of a dragon-slaying hero dominate England today in parades and demonstrations—today is the feast of St. George, when pubs fly flags honoring the Christian warrior mythically known for killing a dragon. Though no one knows the whole truth behind St. George’s story, it is known that it had nothing to do with a real dragon; symbolically, the dragon stands for wickedness and the lady he rescued for God’s truth. In the year 303, when St. George resigned from his military post and bravely told Diocletian his religious affiliation, his bravery was captured in this image.

Born to Christian parents in the 3rd century CE, St. George lived in Turkey until his father died. George’s widowed mother then moved to Palestine, and St. George became a Roman soldier there. (Wikipedia has details.) Though he achieved a high military rank and was among Diocletian’s favorite soldiers, St. George turned against his leader when an order was issued for prosecution against Christians. George scolded Diocletian for his cruelty, tore up the emperor’s orders, and was tortured for his loyalty to Christianity. George was beheaded for his faith on this date in 303 CE. The martyr’s popularity hasn’t faded through the centuries; his flag was even flown by the Mayflower when the Pilgrims first arrived in Plymouth.

As the Patron Saint of England, St. George boasts a well-worn spot in English culture. (Read about St. George’s Day goings-on in Lancashire and Oxford. More is also at the BBC website.) St. George’s Day also is celebrated in countries like Canada, Catalonia, Croatia, Portugal, Greece, Romania and Russia … just to name a few. In England, advocates of the day are campaigning for April 23 to become a public holiday.


Images of Don Quixote and other literary heroes also are popping up, because today is UNESCO’s World Book and Copyright Day (a.k.a. International Day of the Book). Wikipedia’s overview explains that the holiday was set on April 23 because it recalls the passing of both Cervantes and Shakespeare. As a new observance, only established in the mid 1990s, promoters are having some trouble with scheduling conflicts. This year, the related UK observance was moved so it would not coincide with St. George’s Day. One way reading enthusiasts in the UK use the holiday to promote literacy is an annual release of a recommended book list especially geared to young readers.

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