St George clashes with Easter despite date change

06 April 2011

by Ed Beavan

MOST of the country’s St George’s Day celebrations will take place on Holy Saturday this year, ignoring the fact that the date has been transferred to 2 May in the church calendar.

Because 23 April falls in Holy Week, the Church of England keeps St George’s Day after Easter Week.

The move has not been widely noticed, however. The official Enjoy England website lists the top ten St George’s Day celebrations, among them London, Birmingham, Wrest Park, Skipton, and Swindon. All are on 23 April.

The Stone Cross parade in West Bromwich, billed as the largest in the country, takes place on Easter Day. Most of the other main celebrations take place over the weekend, apart from the St George’s Festival in the centre of Manchester, which has moved forward to the weekend of 15-17 April.

There is more variety within the Church itself. St George’s, Grave­send, in Kent, will be celebrating its patronal festival on Thursday 28 April (Easter Thursday), and this will coincide with the town’s annual St George’s Day parade.

The Rector of St George’s, Canon Chris Stone, said that the date was appropriate. The parade will also serve as an early celebration for the royal wedding the next day.

St George’s, Hanover Square, in central London, will mark St George’s Day on Sunday 1 May. Its verger, James O’Hare, said that they had decided to celebrate their patronal festival on the closest Sunday after Easter; but people were “not that bothered” by the delay. “It didn’t really make much difference.”

St George’s, Stamford, in Lincoln­shire, however, will not be transfering the festival. It will be flying the flag of St George on 23 April and combine its St George’s Day celebrations with Easter. The Associate Rector, the Revd David Maylor, said that they were not “particularly liturgical”, and many people were not aware of the date switch.

Office staff at St George’s, Leeds, were unaware of transfer of the date to 2 May in the Church’s calendar.

Peter Tromans, a member of the congregation of St Peter’s Barge, in Canary Wharf, in London, said that he was not aware of the change of date in the church calendar. “We tend not to bother too much about St George, and I don’t like the thought of using patron saints in the nationalistic way that other parts of the UK do.”

A spokesman for the Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, said on Tuesday that he was campaigning for the Government to “hold celebrations and put up flags from buildings on 2 May. This would be in addition to anything happening on 23 April.” Dr Sentamu has re­newed his campaign for a bank holiday on St George’s Day. He will host a sing-along event out­side York Minster on 2 May, which will include songs such as “Rule, Britannia!” and “Land of Hope and Glory”.

He said this week: “As someone who is inspired by St George’s refusal to renounce his discipleship of Jesus Christ, I have long campaigned for us to have a special holiday where we can celebrate our patron saint and all that is great about our wonderful nation.”

The Conservative MP for Stratford-upon-Avon, Nadhim Zahawi, has put forward a Private Member’s Bill asking for 23 April to become a bank holiday. The proposal was raised in Church Commissioners’ questions in the Commons, in which the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Tony Baldry MP, backed a debate on the issue.

A ComRes survey commissioned by Premier Christian Media sug­ges-ted that 64 per cent of people in the UK, including 71 per cent of Chris­tians, favoured a public holiday on St George’s Day.

Question of the week: Do you agree with transferring St George’s Day to 2 May?

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