Today is St George’s Day, and I almost forgot that. I have a ready excuse though: the day of England’s patron saint has been ignored, not to say hushed up, in London.
I walked a few miles through Fulham and Putney earlier today and saw not a single St George’s Cross flapping in the wind. It wouldn’t be a stretch to observe that, say, St Patrick’s Day or even the Fourth of July receive greater publicity.
One would have expected front pages of our broadsheets dedicated to this Roman officer martyred in the Diocletianic Persecution of 303 AD, and first mentioned in England by the Venerable Bede. That expectation would have been frustrated: one would have needed a magnifying glass to find the feast even mentioned in most of the papers.
Yet for half a millennium at least, St George’s Day was a national holiday celebrated with almost the same pomp as Christmas. St George was honoured because so was England.
No longer. Honouring England, and therefore St George, is these days on a par with xenophobia and racism. In some quarters, the Cross of St George is regarded as not quite so bad as the swastika but almost – and certainly more disreputable than the red flags seen everywhere on May Day.
Oh well, one hears (often from the same people who think Englishmen ought to be ashamed of themselves), what do you expect? St George wasn’t even English. True. But then neither was Jesus Christ, whose birth we do celebrate nevertheless, if in a rather perfunctory fashion.
The thing is that nowadays we celebrate not so much Christmas as Christmas Sales, that orgiastic festival of acquisitiveness. This gives me an idea of how to restore St George’s Day to its past grandeur.
Shops across the country must be given tax incentives to discount their merchandise every 23 April dramatically enough to have crowds queuing up through the night. At least that way every shop will be draped in St George’s flags to remind us that England is still worth celebrating.
Happy St George’s Day to all of you who love England, wherever you are from!