BBC Home
Explore the BBC
BBC News
Launch consoleBBC NEWS CHANNEL
Languages
Last Updated: Monday, 23 April 2007, 00:38 GMT 01:38 UK
Days to celebrate, by George
By Mario Cacciottolo and Victoria Bone
BBC News

Another St George's Day, another smattering of minor events and muted celebrations around England.

A man portraying St George, on horseback, with a falcon
St George is the patron saint of England, and handy with dragons
But although the campaign to have England's national day marked as a holiday continues in vain, there is evidence of some momentum towards St George this year.

Find out what you can do to mark the day - and how England's efforts still have some way to go to match the celebrations and global attention afforded other UK national days.

ST GEORGE'S DAY

With the day falling on a Monday - perfect for a Bank Holiday some patriots might argue - landlords are leading the charge with St George's bunting to attract the post-work crowd.

Still, there is fun to be had in the daytime - London has a handful of events organised by Mayor Ken Livingstone, the fourth year running that such festivities have been held.

The highlight will be a screening of classic British comedy on a giant screen in Trafalgar Square starting at 1230 BST, including a showing of Monty Python and the Holy Grail at 1930 BST.

Prior to the film there is a world record attempt for a coconut orchestra, an idea inspired by a scene from the film. Volunteers are needed, with coconuts provided. Registration is from 1700 BST.

'Growing popularity'

Mr Livingstone acknowledged St George's Day events were growing in popularity, calling them "an opportunity to highlight the best in English culture".

However, the mayor funds a much bigger St Patrick's Day celebration, complete with parade. A clear sign that St George has some serious catching up to do.

Other events include:

  • In Guildford, Surrey, there is a special farmers market in the high street from 1030 BST to 1530 BST.

  • Leicester has a day of celebrations taking place in its historic market place.

  • Tameside council in Manchester is pulling out the stops, transforming Ashton town centre into a medieval village.

  • In Coventry a full scale re-enactment of the myth is taking place, featuring St George, a cast of medieval characters and the obligatory dragon. Performances take place in the Upper Precinct between 1230 BST and 1330 BST.

St. George Unofficial Bank Holiday is an independent group that wants a national bank holiday for England on 23 April.

Cross of St George flag
Soon to be appearing on a flagpole near you - possibly
The group wrote to 386 borough and county councils in England to ask if they were holding an event to celebrate, and also if they were going to fly the flag of St George.

Of that number, 205 replied, with 158 stating they do not plan to celebrate the day.

Campaign organiser Graham Smith said one excuse given by several councils is that "we only have one flagpole".

He added: "A number of councils said they wanted to do a celebration but haven't got the budget."

Finally, if you really want to mark the day but have not got time, you can buy a new set of stamps being released by Royal Mail.

HAVE YOUR SAY
I think it's about time we celebrated being English
James, Watford

The stamps, entitled Celebrating England, portray an image of St George, a photograph of the Houses of Parliament and the Cross of St George flag.

In short, there are some things to do, but St George is facing some stiff competition, not least from across the water.

ST PATRICK'S DAY

Everyone wants to be Irish on St Patrick's Day. It could be the "craic" or the estimated 13m pints of Guinness drunk worldwide on 17 March.

St Patrick's Day parade in Trafalgar Square
Everyone feels Irish when it comes to St Patrick's Day

Revelry, and often excess drinking, is the order of the day wherever you are marking it.

This year in London, 100,000 people watched the fifth annual St Patrick's Day parade.

The biggest party was in Birmingham. Nine days of events were put on this year and close to 150,000 people turned out for the parade.

The same numbers are not expected to take to the streets for St George.

In Dublin the festivities lasted for five days and saw 4,000 performers and more than a million people take to the streets.

The official St Patrick's festival (the "Day" was dropped when the festivities began to last the week) was established by the Irish government in 1995.

Politicians take the day seriously too. It has become common for the entire government to be abroad, promoting the country around the world.

It seems unlikely Westminster will be deserted on Monday for the same reasons.

Americans take Paddy's Day very seriously. In 2005 the Chicago River was dyed green to celebrate.

But New York takes the crown for the biggest parade in the world, with two million people turning out to watch. The lights on the Empire State Building turn green too.

The lights are also changed to recognise St David's Day. St George's Day is not on the lighting rota.

Elsewhere celebrations are varied and sometimes bizarre. In Tokyo there is an Irish sports day and in Sydney a bachelor of the year award.

Unlikely places like Montserrat and the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador have the day as a public holiday.

ST DAVID'S DAY

St David's Day on 1 March is generally a more sedate affair than its Irish counterpart.

Welsh Assembly building
The Welsh Assembly want a bank holiday for St David's Day

There is an annual St David's Day public lecture at Cardiff University - this year it looked at the impact of devolution on citizenship.

Also this year, historical treasure Tintern Abbey was lit up in red and green.

At London Paddington station, announcers read out train information in Welsh and English.

Cultural celebrations

Schools in Wales celebrate with special concerts or eisteddfodau, with readings and songs.

Younger girls wear national costume to lessons. Boys wear a leek or a daffodil.

In the past children were given a half-day holiday and some schools still continue the tradition.

Culture is the order of the day in other parts of the world too, like New York where Wales Week is packed with music, theatre and arts events.

President George W Bush gave a speech this year on St David's Day, praising Welsh contributions to American life.

But St David's Day is still not a recognised bank holiday in Wales, and the Welsh Assembly's request to make it so have been rejected.

ST ANDREW'S DAY

Until recently there have been limited celebrations of St Andrew's Day on 30 November in Scotland, but that is changing.

Holyrood's Presiding Officer George Reid at New York's Tartan Day parade
Holyrood's Presiding Officer George Reid kilts up for the New York's Tartan Day

In 2006, the parliament designated the day a voluntary public holiday after much wrangling.

It was only a partial victory though, as employers are not required to give staff the day off.

Matters were not helped by the "monumental gaffe", according to Scottish National Party activists, of the parliament getting the date of St Andrew's Day wrong in 2006.

Last year there were a number of government-sponsored events, mostly focused on traditional Scottish music and dancing.

Scotland spirits

There were also Scottish themed events hosted by UK embassies.

The consumption of traditional food and drink like atholl brose and cranachan are encouraged, as is the wearing of kilts.

There are special assemblies in schools and the first minister issues a message.

Just as with St Patrick's and St David's, America often celebrates on a grander scale than the Scots themselves.

In the US, the equivalent is Tartan Day - in fact Tartan Week - although it is celebrated in April not November, and includes 1,800 pipers, drummers and clansmen.




SEE ALSO
Cost row slays St George parade
18 Apr 07 |  Derbyshire
MSPs approve St Andrew's day bill
29 Nov 06 |  Scotland

RELATED INTERNET LINKS
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites



FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

PRODUCTS & SERVICES

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific