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St. George's Day

Aprile 2014
Il 23 aprile in Inghilterra si festeggia il patrono: San Giorgio. È un giorno importante anche perché è il compleanno di Shakespeare! St. George è più famoso di quanto non si creda: la sua bandiera, piuttosto dibattuta, è anche il simbolo di Milano e Genova; e il nome George è un classico: dal royal baby ai pub!

di Jonathan Cameron

File audio:

A child with the flag of St. George
A child with the flag of St. George
St. George's Day celebrations
St. George's Day celebrations

Speaker: Justin Ratcliffe (Standard British accent)

George is a popular name in England. So far there have been six King Georges: presumably the seventh, the royal baby, will succeed his father, Prince William. You can find pubs called “The George and Dragon” all over the country. Even one of the Beatles was called George: George Harrison, of course. George is a popular name because St. George is the country’s patron saint. His “Feast Day” is on April 23rd, the same day as Shakespeare’s birthday. St. George’s Day is a big day for the English, even if it’s probably not as important as St. Patrick’s Day is for the Irish on March 17th.


When you think about it, St. George is a strange choice for an English patron saint. St. Patrick was a missionary in Ireland, but St. George never went to England. He was a Roman soldier who was tortured and martyred in Palestine in AD 303. This was because he refused to renounce his Christianity. There is also a legend that he once “slew” – or killed – a dragon. This is hard to believe, but then so is the theory that there aren’t any snakes in Ireland because St. Patrick banished them.


The other unusual thing about St. George is that he is also popular in other countries, particularly Italy and Spain. His red and white flag – known as The St. George’s Cross – is also the symbol of the cities of Genoa and Milan. The cult of St. George began to develop in Europe at the time of the Crusades.


The George Cross is also the name of  an important medal. This is for civilians, while the Victoria Cross is for the military. And yet St. George’s Day has an image problem these days. In 1974 a group of English neo-fascists founded an organisation called “The League of St. George.” There are parades on St. George’s Day, but they are less colourful than the St. Patrick’s Day parades in Dublin and New York. There is a “March for England” rally in Brighton. In theory it is for people of all ethnic and religious groups,  but in recent years it has been the scene of fights between fascists and anti-fascists. According to a survey published by The Daily Telegraph in 2012, 24 per cent of English people consider the flag of St. George to be a racist symbol. Most people prefer the Union Jack. 


English people tend to spend St. George’s  Day at the local pub. “The George and Dragon” is not, however, the most common pub name in England. According to CAMRA, the Campaign for Real Ale, it is “The Crown”: according to the BBPA, the British Beer and Pub Association, it is “The Red Lion.”


St. George’s Day has also been the subject of a film. St. George’s Day, which was released in 2012, is a gangster movie about a group of London criminals who try and steal some diamonds... on April 23rd.


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Feast Day. Questo termine è abbastanza arcaico in inglese: corrisponde alla parola “festa” in italiano (nel senso religioso) ma è più comune dire saint’s day. Di solito si usa la parola feast per indicare un banchetto. Per indicare una festa, nel senso di una serata tra amici, si dice party.  

He once slew a dragon. Una volta ha ammazzato un drago. Anche il verbo to slay è un po’ antico ma si usa ancora quando si parla di draghi! Infatti è rimasto in circolazione grazie al succeso del film/videogame Dragonslayer. Letteralmente il titolo significa “l’ammazzadraghi” ma è stato tradotto in italiano come “Il drago del lago di fuoco”.