Ireland is not the only country to have a beloved patron saint. Our English neighbors pay homage to the great St. George, the dragon-slayer, each year on April 23.
Our ever competitive natures can’t leave it at that though, can they? We may be able to beat England on the rugby pitch, but this is the only rivalry that counts: St. Patrick vs St. George - The Saint-Off.
Disclaimer: We may be slightly biased judges.
St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated worldwide from Australia to Japan with the top parades happening outside of Ireland itself. St. George’s Day is barely celebrated in England.
A poll taken in 2013 by think tank British Future showed that only 40% of people were aware of what day St. George is celebrated on. The same poll showed that British people were more likely to know the date for St. Patrick’s Day with two-thirds saying it was the more widely-celebrated feast day.
An easy choice for this one, you’d have to live under a rock to avoid St. Patrick’s Day.
This comes down to a simple question of dragons vs snakes.
St. George is said to have slain a dragon in Libya as he saved the maiden princess Cleolinda from becoming a human sacrifice. In gratitude for saving them from the evil dragon cutting off their water supply, the people of Selene then converted to Christianity.
St. Patrick famously drove all the snakes from Ireland and chased them into the sea when they disturbed his 40-day hilltop fast.
Despite the fact that both of these stories are believed to be metaphors for ridding the world of the Devil or pagan priests, if we take them at face value, a few snakes don’t seem as bad. We’d like to see Samuel L. Jackson handle Dragons on a Plane.
Poor St. Patrick, the slave-come-missionary, was kidnapped from his native home and brought to Ireland to tend animals. Following his escape, he saw his enslavement as a punishment for his lack of faith in his younger years and later returned to Ireland to help in converting the pagan people to Christianity.
On his return, his life was still endangered, as not all the locals took too kindly to a man waving around shamrocks and putting down their gods. He faced imprisonment and threats because he refused to accept the Mrs. Doyle-type offers of payment for baptisms and conversions and, in general, wanted to be at home for most of the time he spent in Ireland. Despite all this, Patrick became the much-loved idol of the Irish people and the Christian church reigned supreme for many a year to come.
St. George’s life story is much different. Born in Cappadocia (eastern Turkey) in 270 AD to Christian parents, George became a Roman soldier. Unfortunately for George, this was during the time when Rome was declaring war on Christianity and he resigned to protest against his pagan leader, Emperor Diocletian.
His protests led to his death, however. George was imprisoned and tortured and, when he still refused to renege on his religious beliefs, he was eventually dragged through the streets and beheaded.
A tough decision and as much as we admire George’s courage and commitment, St. Patrick is said to have avoided execution on a number of occasions.
Love for their country
St. Patrick may not have had a happy time in Ireland, but at least he set foot in the country. St. George became famous in England through word of mouth, as English soldiers passed on the story of George and the dragon. This reputation grew further during the Crusades and in 1099 a “miracle appearance” occurred where St. George led Crusaders into battle. St. George eventually became England’s patron saint in 1415 A.D.
An apparition’s all very well and good, but St. Patrick physically came to Ireland to help our people.
St. George’s day also sees traditional celebrations with Morris dancers working up an appetite for an English dinner of fish and chips. People mark the occasion by wearing a red rose, the national flower of England.
Ours may be stronger worldwide, but tradition is tradition.
Winner: We’re going to have to call this one a draw
Overall winner: ST. PATRICK!
Do you know of any other saints that could rival our St. Patrick? Let us know in the comments section below.