Does Britain have a National Day?
Each of the countries that make up the United Kingdom have their own National Day, named after their respective patron saint:
England: St. George's Day (23 April). A story dating back to the 6th century tells that St George rescued a maiden by slaying a fearsome fire-breathing dragon. The Saint's name was shouted as a battle cry by English knights who fought beneath the red-cross banner of St George during the Hundred Years War (1338-1453). This is immortalised in Shakespeare's play Henry V in the lines:
|"I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
|Straining upon the start. The game's afoot:
|Follow your spirit; and, upon this charge
|Cry 'God for Harry! England and Saint George!'"
Nowadays, every parish church in England marks St. George's Day by flying the red cross.
Scotland: St. Andrew's Day (30 November). St. Andrew was one of Christ's twelve apostles. Some of his bones are said to have been brought to what is now St. Andrews in Fife during the 4th century. Since medieval times the X-shaped saltire cross upon which St. Andrew was supposedly crucified has been the Scottish national symbol.
Wales: St. David's Day (1 March). St. David (c.520-588) was the founder and first abbot-bishop of Menevia, now St. David's in Dyfed, South Wales. The day is commemorated by the wearing of daffodils or leeks. Both plants are traditionally regarded as national emblems.
Northern Ireland: St. Patrick's Day (17 March). The work of St. Patrick (c.389-c.461) was a vital factor in the spread of Christianity in Ireland. Born in Britain, he was carried off by pirates and spent six years in slavery before escaping and training as a missionary. The day is marked by the wearing of shamrocks (a clover-like plant), the national emblem of both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.