St George’s Day is for everyone

St George’s Day is for everyone

St George’s Day means different things to different people, it can stir a spectrum of emotions or none at all .  For some it is the most patriotic day of the year, for others it is an unknown event.  The day is a celebration of a saint who is a patron of 23 countries, or areas within countries, including England and also Bulgaria, Georgia, Portugal and Catalonia. It might also be a surprise to here it is celebrated under the name of Hıdırellez in Turkey, as well.

In a time when we are more global and identifies are multifaceted, it is useful to have events which bring us together as a nation, as a mass of people living in the same geography, within the same governance.  This is something which I have been reflecting on as we approach St George’s Day.

Growing up in Scotland I was loosely aware of St Andrew’s Day and eventually began to remember the date that this occurred. There were other more important days in the year for me such as Christmas, New Year, Bonfire Night, Halloween and my birthday to remember – even Burns Night (which was mainly a male drinking session when I was young, not the family Ceilidh dance it has become) . For me, the first time that St Andrew’s Day really came to the forefront of Scottish celebration was post devolution and the mainstream rise of the agenda for independence.  I started to pay more attention and realised that actually this day is celebrated more by Scots abroad than at home, possibly as a way to connect with their identity.

I ended up marrying an Iranian person, and my kids have Iranian heritage of which I am very proud of and so are they. This means I have more days to celebrate too such as Nowruz and Shabi Yalda. I do like to get involved in wider culture’s celebrations such as Eid because I live in Bradford and envy everyone from the large Muslim community when they take part.  I am very conscious of my own identify though as a Christian and as someone who is from Scotland.  I find myself celebrating Scottish days more now I am away from Scotland as a way to teach my kids about where their Dad comes from and also to maintain my own identity. It is very important to me to share this with others and be recognised. I can only imagine that this is the same for everyone and their own special occasions.

When I moved to England I was surprised to see the lack of celebration at New Year as in Scotland this is probably the biggest celebration all year. When I went to the centre of town to meet up with people I was shocked to see nobody there waiting for the bells to ring midnight. In Scotland you would need police to manage crowds. I was also surprised to see the lacklustre celebration of St George’s Day. Not that in Scotland Saints days are a massive event, but I am sure when I go to Wales or Northern Ireland they celebrate St Patrick’s Day (probably their biggest event) and St David’s Day, and in Scotland they do mark the occasion.

My reflection is there might be many reasons for St George’s Day having muted standing on the event calendar. In England we have a hugely diverse community and especially in Bradford. Other days might just be more important to people.  In less diverse areas, or areas where people are seen more as white English it might be different. The flag and the name have also been linked to far right groups which might put people off. It is also linked to Christianity which is not everyone’s religion.  The history of the Saints days are not always clear or well-known either, the background and purpose of celebrating, what are we exactly celebrating? More could be done to educate people about the reason for these days.

It would be great to see St George’s celebrated more, wholeheartedly by the whole community, from all religions, from all races and ethnicities, from all types of backgrounds. It would be great to see this celebrated as a united day of patriotism in England, to say we are proud to live and work here and bring up our families here, we are proud of the place where we live, that this place is diverse but united.  It would be great to all get together safely this year on April 23rd and say Happy St George’s Day and know that this sentiment means; I am happy to live with you in this amazing country, in this amazing city, in this amazing place.

If you would like to get involved in Stronger Communities plans to recognise the event online, please contact;