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Painting of St George on horseback slaying the dragon

How St George's Day is celebrated around the world

You might be surprised to learn that St George is the patron saint of countless other countries around the world. Here's how the legendary figure's feast day is celebrated around the world.

Image: Saint George and the Drago by Raphael | Public Domain

While you might not be surprised to learn that St George isn’t just the patron saint of England, you might be shocked when you realise just how international the patron saint truly is. From Europe to Africa and even Asia, St George’s Day is a massive day of celebration for many countries and cultures around the world.

From roasting a whole lamb to honour the patron saint of shepherds, to horseback riding, here are five ways that St George is celebrated across the globe.

1. England

Rising to popularity as the patron saint of England during the Tudor period, St George’s Day is typically celebrated in England every year on 23rd April. Before the union of England and Scotland in 1707, St George’s Day was up there with Christmas and Easter in terms of its importance to the English people. Since the unification, however, the patron saint has fallen in popularity, and his day, while still observed, is no longer a significant date marked on the calendar.

Despite this decline, celebrations are still held annually across England to honour the saint and champion some of the best and quirkiest English traditions. Morris Dancing is popular, along with singing Jerusalem and watching Punch and Judy shows. Those wishing to observe the day can also wear a red rose on their lapel.

2. Spain

St George was made the patron saint of several Spanish municipalities after King Peter I of Aragon won the Battle of Alcoraz. According to the legend, the Christian army was heavily outnumbered, and their chances against the besieged Moors weren’t hopeful. However, when St George appeared before the Christian army, they were invigorated and inspired in their holy mission and emerged as the victors, reclaiming the city of Huesca.

Since then, each region has developed its own unique ways of celebrating the venerated patron saint. In the old Kingdom of Aragon in the north of Spain, 23rd April is considered a feast day in celebration of the victory. Other regions across the country celebrate with costume parades and reenactments telling the stories of how St George similarly helped other Christian armies across the country in their greatest time of need, leading them to victory over the Moors. In Catalonia, the celebrations are more similar to those seen on Valentine's Day, with young sweethearts exchanging gifts of red roses and books.

3. Germany

In the German state of Bavaria, St George’s Day is also celebrated on 23rd April with Georgiritt (George’s Ride). Horses and wagons are decorated with bright colours and paraded around local churches while a service that blesses both horses and riders takes place. Once the church service is concluded, celebrations continue, with riders participating in various types of competitions.

4. Brazil

Much like Germany, Brazil celebrates St George’s Day on horseback to honour the patron saint of the Brazilian Army Cavalry. Celebrations begin in Rio De Janeiro at 3pm with a moment of Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. After this time of prayer and reflection, the festivities begin, with light shows, fireworks displays, and a mass held at 5am.

5. Bulgaria

Celebrated on 6th May, the public holiday is one of the most widely celebrated days in the national calendar. For many Bulgarians, St George’s Day is celebrated with a mixture of old and new traditions. Military parades are held across the country, and families will sacrifice a lamb in honour of the patron saint and then roast it for a springtime feast.

Magic and ancient superstition also play a big part in St George’s Day in Bulgaria, with some pagan rituals intermingling with the more modern Christian ones. It is meant to be a day of good luck, and it is believed that it’s possible to break evil spells on this day. It’s also believed that St George blesses the morning dew on that day, so don’t be surprised if you find people washing their hands and faces in the morning droplets.