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THE DRAGON SLAYER: ST GEORGE CELEBRATIONS AROUND THE WORLD

01/05/2013

Here we go, as promised, continuing the series about St. George`s Day. After on Monday telling you about traditional Bulgarian customs, today`s post is about how St. George`s Day is celebrated in some parts of the world.

As you might remember, the holiday is celebrated by various Christian churches; depending on which calendar they follow it is either on the 23rd of April for Gregorian or on the 6th of May for Julian.

Countries that celebrate St George's Day include England, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Greece, Georgia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the Republic of Macedonia. Cities include Moscow in Russia, Genova in Italy, Ljubljana in Slovenia, Beirut in Lebanon, Qormi and Victoria in Malta and many others. It is also celebrated in the old Crown of Aragon in Spain—Aragon, Catalonia, Valencia, and Majorca. The legend tells that St George was a Greek who became an officer in the Roman army; after slaying a vicious dragon in a village close to Silene (Cyrene in Libya or Lydda in Holy Land) and thus saving the princess from horrible death. As he performed this miracle by protecting himself with the sign of the cross, the whole village then converted to Christianity. He was named the Victorious and is one of the most venerated saints in the Catholic, Anglican, Eastern Orthodox, and the Oriental Orthodox churches. To this day, St. George is often depicted with a dragon.

St George`s Day is a particularly big feast in England, where it is paired with Christmas since 15th century. After all, he is the Patron Saint of England :) Traditionally men wore a red rose in their lapel; flying or adorning the St George`s Cross flag is another custom. No surprise, the most social places are to follow that tradition most perseveringly: pretty much all the pubs are festooned on April 23rd.

St George celebrations in Catalonia are also worth mentioning. It is celebrated in a manner surprisingly close to Valentine`s Day, but of course with some twists. It all began with men giving ladies a rose, and in exchange receiving a book – this is why it is called the Day of the Rose or, alternatively, the Day of the Book. Legend has it that after slaying the dragon St George gave the princess a red rose. Nowadays giving and receiving is open to all kinds of gifts, between lovers, relatives, colleagues. Roses and books are not at all forgotten, though, half of the total yearly book sales are made on this day. Beware when giving someone a rose, the meaning of the gift changes depending on the flower`s color. Red stands for love and passion, pink means gratitude, purple symbolizes nobility, white – purity and innocence and red are for joy and happiness. The not so natural blue roses are increasingly popular as most people find them the best choice to give to a friend – blue symbolizes trust.

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Barcelona doesn`t forget about the holiday and all day long sardana, the dance of Catalonia, is performed on Plaça Sant Jaume.

Curiously, it was Catalonia to export the book tradition on St George`s Day to the rest of the world, as in 1995 UNESCO announced April 23rd to be World Book Day.

Another country with a curious celebration is, no surprise here, Georgia. They observe the holiday not once, but twice a year – May 6th and November 23rd. A festival is held at the cathedral of Mtskheta, the old capital and religious center of Georgia.

So, dears, if you are looking for a not so traditional for you way to celebrate this year, use the above to customize your own feast :)