British American Group

Saints and Emblems

Posted on: November 17, 2006

The major holidays of England, Scotland, and Wales are in celebration of patron Saints. The saints are very important to their respective country, believed to be a major identity for each. England has St. George, the heroic dragon slayer and faithful follower of Christ; Scotland has St. Andrew, one of Jesus’ apostles; Wales has St. David, who founded religious centres such as Glastonbury and Croyland.

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Saint George

The folktale of St. George the dragon slayer found its place in the religions of several regions of Europe and Asia Minor, and accounts may vary based on local tradition. He serves as the saint of England, Georgia, Bulgaria, Portugal, and Catalonia. In England it is the National Day, which is celebrated April 23, the date of Saint George’s death in 303 A.D.

According to the legend, a dragon makes its nest at the spring which provides a city with water. The citizens therefore had find a way to temporarily remove the dragon from its nest in order to collect water. To do this, they offered the dragon a daily human sacrifice. The victim of the day was chosen by a lottery. The unfortunate person who was chosen for the deed this particular day was the local princess. She is offered to the dragon but, at the last moment, the heroic George arrives. He ran it through with a lance and saved the princess. The grateful citizens abandon their ancestral Paganism and convert to Christianity.

It is believed his adoption as the English patron saint occurred when a church in Doncaster was dedicated to him in 1061. Crusaders also probably returned with accounts of the respect paid to him in the Middle East.

Tradition

Knighthoods of the Order of the Garter are bestowed on 23rd April. A red rose is associated with this day, although the saint’s colour is in fact blue (after the shade of the original garter) and it is traditional to wear something blue.

St. George frequently appears in Mummers’ Plays during Easter and Christmas celebrations. He is also the patron saint of Norwich in Norfolk,and his day was at one time known as Mayor’s Day. Here a procession would wind its way through the town, with an elaborately costumed dragon (called ‘Snap’) at its head. The oldest surviving Snap costume can still be viewed in Norwich Castle Museum.

Numerous St George’s Day festivities still take place in many English towns and villages, including fairs at Bewdley, Hatfield and Lichfield.

Flying the Flag for England

The Cross of St. George is the flag of England (white flag with a red cross). The flag bearing his cross was England’s first “national” flag. During the reigns of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I, the Cross of St. George also became the basic English naval flag. Today, the red and white colors of the flag, as well as the flag itself, are seen when celebrating the English football squad.

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Saint Andrew

Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland, and like St. George of England, he was also the patron saint in the folklore of other countries such as Greece, Russia, and Romania.

In Christian tradition, Saint Andrew is a Christian Apostle, brother of Saint Peter. Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist (John 1:37-40) and was one of the first to follow Jesus. It is said that Andrew suffered crucifixion at Patras in Achaea (Greece), on a cross in the form of an X-shape. This became known as “St. Andrew’s Cross”, seen on the blue Scottish flag as a white saltire in commemoration of Saint Andrew’s crucifixion.

St. Andrew’s Day is Scotland’s National Day, observed annually on November 30.

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Saint David

Saint David lived approximately 500–589 AD. In Wales, he is known as Dewi Sant.

According to the stories about Saint David, he lived for over 100 years, and died on March 1. This day is thus celebrated as “Saint David’s Day”, and the people of Wales wear daffodils or leeks in his honor. David never drank alcohol, nor did he eat meat. His symbol, also the symbol of Wales, is the leek – a vegetable that is a type of onion.

At a time when England was still made up of tribes, largely pagan ones at that, David spread the Christian gospel and founded monasteries across the country. He became famous for his teachings.

Upon his death, David was buried at St David’s Cathedral. His shrine was a popular place of pilgrimage throughout the Middle Ages. You can see it today in Pembrokeshire, Wales. It is one of the earliest British cathedrals, having first been a monastery in the 6th century.

Saint David has his own flag, much like Saints George and Andrew. But unlike his fellow holy men, his flag is not included in the Union Flag of Great Britain. Instead, Wales’ national flag is separate, on a green and white background with a red dragon passant. It is actually Saint Patrick’s flag that completes the triumvrate within the Union Jack.

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