St George’s Day is celebrated on 23 April by various Christian churches and by the several nations, kingdoms, countries and cities of which Saint George is the patron saint, including England and regions of Spain and Portugal in particular.
St George is most widely known for slaying a dragon. According to legend, the only well in the town of Silene was guarded by a dragon and, in order to get water, the inhabitants of the town had to offer a human sacrifice every day to the dragon. The person to be sacrificed was chosen by lots. On the day that St George was visiting, a princess had been selected to be sacrificed. However, he killed the dragon, saved the princess and gave the people of Silene access to water. In gratitude, they converted to Christianity.
St George’s Day was once celebrated as widely as Christmas. But the celebrations waned by the end of the 18th century after England had united with Scotland in 1707.
On 23 April, Aragon celebrates its “Día de Aragón” (Day of Aragon) in commemoration of the Battle of Alcoraz in which Huesca was conquered by the Aragonese army and in which tradition says that St George appeared at a critical moment for the Christian Army.
In Catalonia, la Diada de Sant Jordi is celebrated involving traditions similar to those of the Anglo-Saxon Valentine’s Day.
During the reign of King John I (1357–1433) Saint George became the patron saint of Portugal and the King ordered that the saint’s image on the horse be carried in the Corpus Christi procession.
In Bavaria, Georgiritt (George’s Ride) takes place around St George’s Day, especially around churches dedicated to the saint. Brightly decorated horses and wagons parade several times around the church, in which a service is then held at which the riders and horses are blessed.
The play Andorra (1961) by Max Frisch focusses greatly on the (fictionalised) Andorran celebrations of St. George’s Day. The play begins and ends with references to a ceremonial whitewashing of houses by the town’s virgins, again reflecting the day’s central theme of purity.