Do You Care About St George's Day?
"Did they just make this holiday up?"
Here's a nice afternoon surprise for you: it's St George's Day today! That's right – thousands of years ago, when dragons were still around, a guy named George slayed one, awarding him a sainthood and the honour of being the man that every English person talks about on the 23rd of April each year. But does anyone actually talk about him? Does anyone care any more? People love St Paddy's day because it's an excuse to get blind drunk in the name of tourist patriotism, but St George's doesn't have any of those perks – all it's got is St George's bunting that makes everyone think you might be a bit racist if you hang it outside your house.
I wanted to see whether the dragon-slayer is still relevant, so I went to ask some people in London a question: Do you care about St George's Day? (SPOILER: Most people didn't, bar one guy called Dan, who is very, very passionate about St George and his day.)
Chris, 33, security supervisor: No. I don’t really know that much about it. I’m not really British, though, so why would I? I'm from Trinidad, but I’ve been here ten years.
And you had no idea it was today?
Not really, man, sorry. Maybe if I had today off I would care. That’s what they should do: give people the day off and then they’ll care. How come we didn’t have today off?
I have no idea.
What’s the idea behind it anyway?
St George was this guy who killed a dragon and led people into battle and generally made English people proud of him. So now there's a day named after him.
If you think about it, you could say that it's just a mythical holiday, couldn’t you? What’s the relevance? Did they just make this holiday up?
You might be on to something here, Chris. Do you find nationalistic holidays like this ridiculous?
Well, if I got the day off I'd feel alright about it. There's nothing ridiculous about a day off.
Brian, 37, production accountant: No, not really.
Well, both of my parents are Irish, so I don’t consider myself to be very English, even though I’m from here.
Do you feel like the holiday was manufactured because the English got jealous of how fun St Patrick's Day is?
Not really, no. It doesn’t seem to be very manufactured because you never really hear much about it. Maybe they need to manufacture it a bit more.
Do you know the story behind it?
Yeah, didn’t he kill a dragon, or something?
That’s my understanding of it, yes.
Lydia, 27, actress: Yes. Because this means it’s my birthday tomorrow. Also, I care more that it’s both Shakespeare’s birthday and deathday today.
Wait – is that the reason why it’s St George’s Day today?
No, I don’t think so.
Then what is it exactly?
Well, I don’t really care. I only care because I went out with a guy named George once and my birthday is on the 24th, which is tomorrow.
So what does this have to do with Shakespeare?
Nothing, other than the fact it’s his birthday and deathday.
Dan, 25, works in advertising: I care about it. I actively don’t care about Paddy’s Day because I’m not Irish. The only reason people care about it is because of the Guinness. No one cares about the fact that it’s Ireland. If St George’s Day had ale or beer attached to it, people would care. I’m English, not British, so I care about it.
Is it a manufactured holiday?
I think it’s always been a thing, but no one seems to care about it.
What do you attribute that to?
It’s not a bank holiday and there’s no alcohol attached to it. Mind you, I'm going to the pub tonight to have a pint of London’s Criers.
Well, I’d do that anyway, I think. But that's what people should do for St George’s Day.
Is a dragon-free Britain a stronger Britain?
No. I think Britain would be better off with dragons.
If no one cares about St George’s Day, what does it mean to be English in 2013?
I think we’re allowed to be cynical. But I don’t know – if I put a St George’s flag in my car, I think people would look at me like I’m a racist.
Brooke, 28, works in advertising: No, it’s not really on my radar – I’ve got too much going on.
Get you. Why don’t people care about it?
There are no flags in the supermarkets, so people don't know what’s going on.
Do you find national holidays to be a bit over the top and ridiculous?
I don’t know. I think it might be that the English are too conservative when it comes to cheering ourselves for being great. We can cheer on the Irish, we can cheer about everyone else, but when it’s our date, it’s more, “Oh, nevermind.”
So no celebration plans?