Feasts and festivals for the Saints in March and April

It’s a busy couple of months for the saints as we have St David’s day (Tues 1st) and St Patrick’s day (Thurs 17th) in March and St George’s day (Sat 23rd) in April.

Saint David’s Day
Saint David’s Day is the feast day of Saint David, the patron saint of Wales, and falls on the date of his death (c. 589 AD) 1st March.

St. David, born in Caerfai, south west Wales into an aristocratic family, was a Welsh bishop of Mynyw (now St. Davids) during the 6th century.

The feast has been regularly celebrated since his canonisation in the 12th century. It is not a national holiday, though there is strong support for it becoming a bank holiday in Wales. In the past, schools have taken a half-day holiday, which continues in some parts of Wales.

David’s fame as a teacher and his asceticism spread among Celtic Christians of the time. He helped found about 12 monasteries and his foundation at Glyn Rhosyn became an important Christian shrine.

Saint Patrick’s Day
Saint Patrick’s Day held on 17th March, the traditional date of the death of St. Patrick (c.385-461), the foremost patron saint of Ireland.

St. Patrick’s Day was made an official Christian feast day in the early 17th century and commemorates St. Patrick and the arrival of Christianity in Ireland and celebrates the heritage and culture of the Irish in general. Celebrations generally involve public parades and festivals, céilís, and the wearing of green attire or shamrocks. Historically the Lenten restrictions on eating and drinking alcohol were lifted for the day, which has encouraged and propagated the holiday’s tradition of alcohol consumption.

Saint Patrick’s Day revellers outside The Temple Bar in Dublin. Historically Lenten restrictions on eating and drinking were lifted for the day, encouraging the tradition of alcohol consumption.

St. Patrick’s Day is a public holiday in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland and is celebrated in more countries than any other national festival. There has been criticism of St. Patrick’s Day celebrations for having become too commercialised and for fostering negative stereotypes of the Irish people.

St. Patrick was a 5th-century Romano-British Christian missionary and Bishop in Ireland. It is believed he was born in Roman Britain in the 4th century, to a wealthy Romano-British family. His father was a deacon and his grandfather was a priest in the Christian church. When young, Patrick was kidnapped by Irish raiders and taken as a slave to Gaelic Ireland. After 6 years God told Patrick to escape his captors and flee to the coast, where a ship would be waiting to take him home.

According to tradition, Patrick returned to Ireland, becoming a priest and converting the pagan Irish to Christianity. He spent many years evangelising in the northern half of Ireland and converted thousands.

Patrick’s efforts were eventually turned into an allegory in which he drove ‘snakes’ out of Ireland, despite the fact that snakes were not known to inhabit the region.

Tradition holds that he died on 17th March and was buried at Downpatrick. Over the following centuries, many legends grew up around Patrick and he became Ireland’s foremost saint.

Saint George’s Day
George is the patron saint of England. His cross forms the national flag and features within the Union Flag of the United Kingdom. By the 14th century, he had been declared both the patron saint and the protector of the Royal Family.

It is thought that George was a Roman officer of Greek descent, martyred when sentenced to death for refusing to renounce his Christian faith.

The earliest documented mention of St. George in England comes from the Catholic monk the venerable Bede (c.673–735). English soldiers evoked St. George as a battle cry during the Hundred Years’ War (1337–1453) and displayed his cross on their pennants.St. George’s Day was a major feast and national holiday in England on a par with Christmas from the early 15th century. But this tradition had waned by the end of the 18th century after the union of England and Scotland.

Similar to St. David’s Day in Wales, there is a growing reaction to the recent indifference to St. George’s Day. Organisations such as English Heritage and the Royal Society of St. George have been encouraging celebrations, and arguments have been made to make St. George’s Day a public holiday.

England, Ethiopia, Georgia, Moscow, Catalonia & Aragon in Spain have all claimed George as their patron saint, as have several other regions, cities, universities, professions and organisations.

St. George and the Dragon sculpture on top of the radiator grille on one of Queen Elizabeth II’s two 2002 Bentley state limousines. (Image by S. Foskett)

George and the dragon
First recorded in the 11th century, the legend tells of a fierce dragon causing panic in the city of Silene, Libya. To stop the dragon from devastating the city the people sacrificed two sheep each day to him. But sheep were not enough and they were forced to sacrifice humans instead. Eventually the king’s daughter was chosen but no one was willing to take her place. George saved the girl by slaying the dragon with his lance. The king was so grateful that he offered him treasures as a reward for saving his daughter’s life, but George refused and instead he gave these riches to the poor. The people of the city were so amazed at what they had witnessed that they became Christians and were all baptised.

English recruitment poster from WWI, featuring George and the Dragon.

The bones of Saint George are buried in the Church of Saint George, Lod, Israel.