Why is Saint George day celebrated ? Saint George name day is brightly celebrated in Greece as many many Greeks have the name « Georgios ». Saint George is one of the most venerated Saint in the Orthodox churches.
St George’s Day is important because it commemorates the army and the life of St George, a Roman soldier and every Christian martyr. It is celebrated on 23th April in England, in Italy, in Lebanon, in Russia but also in Portugal, Cyprus and many countries of the Balkans.
How Greeks celebrate St Georgios ? Ιn Greece, the 23rd of April is a special celebration day for all Greek people named Georgios (or Yorgos). The person’s name is more important that birthday in Greece and the festive Georgios’ house is on that specific day filled with joys and wishes with invited friends and relatives. Yorgos’ day is also interrupted with phone calls for good wishes. And cakes never run short on tables. Nobody in Greece forget to wish relatives and friend named Yorgos « Hronia polla ! » which means « Many years » (healthy years to come to you). This celebration is more important in Greece given that 1 greek man out of 5 on average in Greece is called Georgios !
Saint George life is a unique martyrdom: George died at Nicomedia city (today Turkey) at age 25, the 23 April 303 AD. He was born from Greek Christians at Lydda (today Lod located in Tel Aviv in Israel).
After his parents death when he was a teenager, George went to imperial city of Nicomedia to become a soldier, helped with his father brilliant career as soldier of Roman Emperor Diocletian. By his late 20s, George was promoted to the rank of imperial guard of the Emperor at Nicomedia.
But the problems started in 302 AD when Diocletian ordered that every Christian soldier in the army should be arrested and sacrificed. George loudly renounced the edict and supported himself as Christian and dared to declare his worship of Jesus Christ. Diocletian attempted to convert George, offering gifts, land, money and slaves if he made a sacrifice to the Roman gods but George refused.
Diocletian had to execute him for his refusal. Before the execution George gave his wealth to the poor and prepared himself. After various torture sessions : laceration on a wheel of swords, bath in hot quicklime, walk in shoes studded with red-hot nails. But George was astonishingly enduring 3 days of torture. Then, he was executed by decapitation before Nicomedia’s city wall, on 23 April 303. His body was returned to Lod (ancient Lydda) for burial. Christians came very soon to honour him as a martyr and many hesitating people empressed to become Christians
Saint George and the dragon : Orthodox show Saint George killing a dragon to save a young maiden on icons. In this legend, the dragon represents Satan and George’s martyrdom and the young maiden is the upcoming Christianism or Alexandra, Empress and wife of Diocletian who professed her faith to God openly seeing tortures made to George.
Icon of St. George by Emmanuel Tzanes (1660-80), now housed in the Church of San Salvatore, Chania, Crete.
Basilica church dedicated to St George : In the seventh century, a basilica dedicated to St George in Lod (Lydda) existed. In 1190 during the 3rd Crusade, the church was destroyed by the forces of Sultan Saladin. A new church was erected in 1872 and is still standing. During the 5th cent. ,the veneration of George passed from Palestine to the Western Roman Empire and was recognized and canonized as a Saint.