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Friday, 27 April, 2001, 08:59 GMT 09:59 UK
St. George's Day: Should the English be more patriotic?
More than three quarters of English people are proud of their nationality but less than half are aware that the 23rd of April is St George's Day, a survey suggests.
The research, in a Mori poll commissioned by the England football kit makers Umbro, found that only 46 percent correctly identified the date - the figure dropped to 31% among those aged between 16 and 24.
The findings come as the Royal Society of St George urged people to display their "Englishness" by wearing red roses, eating English beef and drinking ale.
Spokesman Arthur Naisbitt said the aim was to "reawaken English patriotism and pride in our history".
Are the English a patriotic nation? Would celebrating St. George's Day increase patriotism? Should it be a Bank Holiday?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
Does it really matter whether we are English, Scottish, Welsh or Irish? Surely in this day and age and in such a multi-cultural society we should all move on and class ourselves as British, after all we all live in the United Kingdom. Britain has been formed over hundreds of years by many different peoples setting up home here including Vikings, Scandinavians and a mass of others - a truly United Kingdom. At the end of the day we would have to go way back in history to find out what nationality we really are and I think that the majority of people would get quite a surprise!
England, for some strange reason, is one of the most unpatriotic countries on earth.
We have achieved more than most other countries in the world and given stacks to the world in general.
For some strange reason most English think that their history and patriotism are things to be ashamed of. Why?
Yes, the English do need to be more patriotic, a lot more.
I think a Europe Day would be far more relevant and less divisive. Coupled perhaps with a local celebration of the cultural diversity of each town or village. St George's Day, after all, does make outdated assumptions about both one's faith and ethnicity.
The English should celebrate their own history and culture. What a bizarre place it is where the minority (and I'd hardly call 6-7% of the population significant) are welcomed to celebrate their cultures but the overwhelming majority are not!
And by the way, I'm only half English, but I'm still very proud of that half and I think it is selfish for the minority to expect everyone to behave differently just for them.
Alex Cutelli, UK
In 1965 I remember talking to a Whitehall civil servant who was pleased that his latest task was working on ideas of how to break up the United Kingdom, what is now called devolution. What pleased him most was that there were no minutes of meetings which as the junior officer he would have been responsible for in normal circumstances. This proved to me that stealth agendas exist and social engineering is active. So I am proud of being British AND English and otherwise a world citizen, but Not a little European.
Has anyone taken the feelings of dragons into account?
I may live, due to marriage, in the land of Chianti and pasta, but I am very proud to be ENGLISH. I suspect that some of the 'moaners' haven't experienced living abroad for any great length of time: Try it, and then come back to me with your reflections...
If some of you people want to be more patriotic try learning that the British flag is only the Union Jack if flown on a ship, I think you mean the Union Flag. Thank you.
Patriotism is a tool of politicians. It is used to divide people and make them think they are better than others.
It appeals to our primitive tribal side and the politicians of the world have never failed to abuse its power. Everyone needs to realise that patriotism is just used to manipulate groups against others and so is a completely negative concept.
We need to start thinking of ourselves as members of the human race not part of specific tribes.
I spend St George's Day in Coventry where they know how to celebrate our Patron Saint.
The atmosphere was wonderful. Red roses were distributed free by a local flower stall and were much appreciated. The cross of St George was in abundance, as were St George balloons.
Proud to be English and wish the country would celebrate more enthusiastically. Come on St George!
All true English people should make the effort to celebrate our National Day.
I am a reborn Englishman who is proud to wear his identity with pride.
It seems to me that these days that the English are being actively discouraged to display such sentiments and I find this attitude disgraceful.
Scotland and Wales now have national legislatures which, quite rightly, encourage ethnic pride in the populations of those parts of the UK, perhaps when the English are afforded the same right of a national parliament the English will at last wake up to the fact that they are English and should celebrate the fact.
Patriotism is very dangerous. We live in an international community, and whilst the unity may often seem absent or false there is no reason to devolve to archaic nationalism. The way forward is internationalism. You can be proud of your identity, but too often identity comes at an expense to ideals.
I don't understand the duplicity. Here you are asking whether or not we are proud to be English and yet recent governments and explicitly the current one, are apologising for our past and begging forgiveness for the sins of colonialism and pleading for us to discard our mantle of history from the pound, the pint and the "banger" and become good "Europeans". Are there any really clear thinking politicians left in the UK?
I am an Englishman living in the USA where national heroes and patriotism is celebrated to an extent that is hard to conceive of in England. Whilst I am not advocating that we become like the Americans, I strongly believe that England should celebrate its heroes and its culture to a far greater extent than it currently does.
I would also add that England was lost a long time ago. We have for so long been encouraged to think of ourselves as British. However from my experience the Scots and Welsh have never considered themselves to be British and devolution is an evidence of this.
Please could someone stand up for England!
Mark Colburn, UK
I feel that,if St George's Day were a permanent Bank Holiday, then there would be a rational outlet for English patriotic expression. Less football hooliganism in the long run, I'll be bound.
I'm English and European. I'm not British, and I'm certainly not a Tory. The reason why we're generally so reticent about celebrating Englishness is twofold. In recent years the Right, and the extreme Right in particular, have hijacked Englishness for their own political ends, and the English Left have allowed the Right to get away with this. We should celebrate St George's Day, but we also need to start rethinking what it means to be English. This means coming up with a definition of Englishness which is inclusive and which omits the aggression, racism and xenophobia that has been the extreme Right's traditional contribution.
This is a debate which, I believe, the Left has to take part in, instead of burying its head in the sand and pretending that England as a nation doesn't exist. England is not a nation of extremists, but too often we've allowed extremists to dictate our national identity.
St George's Day was a national holiday on a par with Christmas from 1222 to 1778 - so can we have our holiday back please?
Surely the essence of "Englishness" is the spirit of moderation, tolerance, and good humour that has kept our country - unlike our European neighbours - free of political radicalism, oppression, and dictatorship. If that spirit is best represented in the drinking of tepid beer and the eating of red meat and carbohydrates, so be it. Let's all spend today in the pub.
Katy, UK and USA
You English should be proud of your heritage and not be so concerned with being part of Europe. I am proud of my English ancestors.
Being too patriotic makes us blind to other countries. Do we really want to end up like the States and fail to invite other countries to our world sporting contests?
If you have no respect for your own culture, how can you genuinely appreciate and revere your neighbours? I'm proud to live in a multi-cultural city, proud of my many non-English friends and proud of my English heritage.
I think we should look upon and embrace St George's day with the same enthusiasm that the Irish celebrate their national day. It's got nothing to do with being xenophobic or nationalistic, as I'd like to think I can take pride my country without being accused of hating everybody else's.
I see patriotism as being a last refuge of the desperate and insecure. Why should one not-very-important (in today's multi-racial society) fact have a bearing on the rest of someone's life? I see myself as living in a varied world, rather than hammering home dated points about being "English".
Yes, the English should be allowed a holiday to celebrate the day of their patron saint. With a Cabinet dominated by Scots who rule over England like latter day feudal lords, it's fairly unlikely to happen however. The English have every right to be as patriotic as the other nations of the UK, and the way that our history and culture is viewed by officialdom as an irrelevance or a source of shame is frankly disgusting.
Tom Byrne, USA
Although St George also happens to be the patron saint of Russia, this in no way alters what I would really, really like to celebrate with, which is a pint of Old Speckled Hen and a bag of crisps. However, as the day wears on and as I live in the middle of Saxony, this is looking increasingly unlikely. Help!
No, I don't think that the English deserve a special 'national' holiday. St Patrick's Day has become a marketing exercise for breweries and theme pubs, and it's the pubs and breweries that would be in favour of making St George's Day a public holiday. If you're proud to be English then you have more than enough opportunities to show it the rest of the year, although unfortunately this usually manifests itself by making insulting remarks about the rest of the world.
One of the greatest characteristics of England is the reserve and understatement of its people. This is why we have never felt the need to celebrate it forcefully in the past, and why we should not start this sort of aggressive patriotism now. The racists and the nationalists will of course say it is "political correctness" not to celebrate it. I personally see no reason to start supping sickly warm ale, eating Mad Cow sandwiches or wearing a flower that has no significance to me whatsoever just because a bunch of right-wingers say I should.
I feel that lack of awareness about St George's Day is indicative of growing lack of national identity and pride, compared with, for example, Irish or Amercian celebrations of St Patrick's Day. Whilst not being right-wing or jingoistic, I feel that too often English people fear being branded racist, nationalist or un-PC, especially those in government/authority.
I have lived in Scotland for the past fifteen years and have experienced their nationalistic pride and fervour especially during sporting events. If the English displayed anywhere near the nationalistic pride that the Scots do then they would be branded as arrogant and racist, whereas it's perfectly acceptable to be proud of your country in Scotland.
The reason St George's Day is not celebrated is that most English people believe it is an irrelevance in this day and age - and quite right.
Also, if feeling "English" is so important to Colin, from the Netherlands, why does he not live here?
I feel more British than English. If celebrating St George's Day makes the English / Irish / Scottish / Welsh each a little more competitive within the union then fine. I can't help thinking however that it's all just one more step along the road to dismantling the UK - which would be a shame in my opinion.
In asserting their "own identities" the individual countries may be loosing sight of what it was that got them noticed in the first place - that of being part of something larger than themselves.
Can we please fly the English flag on St George's Day, not the Union Jack? And yes, it should be a Bank Holiday.
Its time for the English to accept their heritage and celebrate it with fervour. For too long other nations have sought to demonise us, causing what I think is a reluctance to admit Englishness or a need to try and rationalise our past. We have a great deal to be proud of as a nation and I think, like other UK nations, it is time we spoke of England and not of Britain.
Its time we had our own governing body as the other UK nations do. Sited at Westminster and containing only English representatives, this would be a monumental step in consolidating the sense of an English nation. Nobody has yet explained why we are the only nation in the UK without its own parliament. If it were any of the other nations without an assembly there would be an outcry that no doubt fingered the English as the ones to blame.
No - please let's not encourage more patriotism. In days gone by, England was a world leader, and considering the size of the country, that was perhaps something to be proud of (I am far too young to know). But now, being British could mean so many different things, and I don't think we have anything particular to be proud of.
Trevor, South Africa
If the English wish to have day off to celebrate a mythical knight who killed a dragon to save a Middle Eastern king's daughter it's surely up to them.
I am dismayed at how unpatriotic we are, and how we seem to be positively discouraged from being so. It must be possible to take a pride in our country without being labelled as a racist. We should be proud of our history and achievements. I, for one, am proud of being British and proud to be English.
St George's day is a Catholic celebration, which is fair enough. But the established church in this country is the Church of England and as we are patriotic and proud of our national church, why should we celebrate a figure of the church of Rome?
Xenophobic patriotism leaves me cold, so the sooner the British adopt an attitude of co-operation with our neighbours instead of shallow self-interest, the better for all concerned. For a satire on unthinking nationalism, listen to Flanders and Swann's excellent mock-English national anthem: "The English are best, I wouldn't give tuppence for all of the rest"!
Yes the English should be more patriotic. There is nothing wrong with being proud of your country and people should not confuse patriotism with nationalism. Here I am always struck by the number of US flags routinely flown over homes, businesses and government buildings. Our local supermarket has a MASSIVE Stars & Stripes flying overhead. Regional devolution in the UK will serve to promote "Englishness," so let's see some St George's flags out there. The English have a lot to be proud of!
I do not regard myself as English but as Northumbrian and a European.
By Northumbrian I mean a Northerner, in reference to the old Anglian Kingdom of Northumbria.
Perhaps as so many 'English' are more conscious of their regional identities rather than a national identity we could forget about looking for an 'English' identity and instead identify ourselves as 'Northumbrian' if Northern, 'Mercian' if from the Midlands and as being from 'Wessex' if from the South.
Of course Saint George's Day should be a Bank Holiday but the chances of the English having a say in this are reducing every day. With a government which refuses to acknowledge that the English should have their own say in English matters there doesn't seem much hope for poor old George.
Mike Perry, England
I'd love to celebrate St George's Day more, but it needs to be officially marked with a Bank Holiday first. Tony needs to spend less time trying to satisfy the whims of every other nation and do something for the English...or is it too 'controversial'?
The English have been made increasingly nervous by the pressures imposed by political correctness. We're now afraid to wave the Union Jack from our own homes/ cars/ festivals for fear of offending anyone and for fear of attack. I say a compulsory holiday for all Englanders regardless of origin. Only a complete fool will complain about that....
Yes we should be patriotic, but let's no confuse patriotism with nationalism. Also, I don't think we can be particularly proud of some of our colonial antics.
When we have a government that is determined to suppress all national pride then these figures are not surprising.
The chances of an English Bank Holiday on the 23rd are virtually impossible. However if there was a patron saint of Europe, the Government would force us all to observe it in some way.
The English are patriotic, in a low-key way. Those who call for them to be more patriotic
should beware of the effects of rabid nationalism. There have been enough object lessons over the last decade!
At last the English can start to identify themselves. We've had the Scots and Welsh talk of their identities, but apart from Northern Ireland, everyone else in the UK seems to be classified as British. St Georges Day - warm beer and Morris dancing is how I've celebrated England. These days I'm English then European (Not Tory).
23 Apr 01 | UK
St George's Day call for devolution
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