Today we celebrate the patron Saint of our nation, St George who as twitter is making clear this morning was actually Turkish. However he is our patron Saint and today is Englands day in the same way that St Davids Day on 1st March allows us to focus on our Welsh heritage, St Patricks day on 17th March allows us to focus on our Irish heritage and in due course we can celebrate with our Scottish neighbours on 30th November. Along with St George, today is the Birthday of Shakespeare so we have a double celebration. Irrespective of what happens in Brighton on Sunday, today is St Georges day and anyone serious about celebrating our patron Saint will do so today. Of course young people cannot take the day off School and so the tradition by Scouts, Guides and other uniformed organisations of holding a St Georges day parade on the Sunday closest to 23rd April is also traditional. As the photograph above clearly indicates, with the Archbishop of York celebrating the day in York Minister, St Georges day is not to divide our nation on a matter of race, any more than it is a matter of gender, religion or sexuality.
When I was young I took part in numerous St Georges Day Parades, I recall on one occasion being asked to carry one of the flags. However when I resigned from the Scout Troop I was part of (as I recall over the way in which the leaders were organising us) I left behind the opportunity to attend such events. Some people blame the far right for spoiling the day for others and of course there are many examples of this being the case at a local level. However the failure to celebrate our patron Saint and indeed mark our culture over its special day is something that had developed over decades by people outside of the Scout movement and other organisations such as the Armed Forces. It is inconceivable that a small group of extremists could hope to hijack the celebrations for David, Patrick or Andrew away from the hands of their nations. This is not because there are no nationalistic extremists in these nations, but it is because the nation as a whole has nurtured and tended the day as a day to celebrate the development of the nation and its achievements.
It would be rather pathetic to write a blog about Englishness if I was not willing to identify some of the things I am proud of and would like to acknowledge. After all such celebrations are not a matter of theory. My own list of English things to be proud of include Cumberland Sausages (sadly my breakfast this morning is an American inspired Granola), the Coast of the North East between Middlesborough and Alnwick. The Pork Pies from Satterthwaites in Crosby, Merseyside, Triumph Motorbikes (sadly I have never ridden one) and of course Harveys Best Bitter. Remembering a few things that you are proud of might not stop a March on Sunday on Brighton seafront, but if we don’t attempt to recapture the essence of a celebration of our nation, things will not get any better.
Have a great St Georges Day!