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Major UK national holidays
St George’s Day
St George’s Day is on 23 April. It is England’s national day.
St George is the patron saint of England. Like England, every country in the UK has its own patron saint who in times of great peril is called upon to help save the country from its enemies.
St George was a brave Roman soldier who protested against the Romans' torture of Christians and died for his beliefs. The popularity of St George in England stems from the time of the early Crusades when it is said that the Normans saw him in a vision and were victorious.
One of the best-known stories about Saint George is his fight with a dragon. But it is highly unlikely that he ever fought a dragon, and even more unlikely that he ever actually visited England. Despite this, St George is known throughout the world as the dragon-slaying patron saint of England.
St George is always depicted as a knight carrying a shield with a red cross (or a banner with a red cross), generally sitting upon a horse and always killing a dragon.
By tradition, 23 April is the day for a red rose in the button hole, the national flower. However, unlike other countries, England does not celebrate it like Americans celebrate 4 July with fireworks. In fact, you are more likely to see big St Patrick parades in England celebrating Ireland’s National Day, more than you would see any sign of St Georges Day being celebrated. This was certainly true in Manchester in 2003, when St George’s Day was virtually ignored soon after the biggest St Patrick’s Day Celebrations in the city's history.
For most people in England St George’s Day is just another ordinary day.
St Andrew’s Day
On 30 November, Scottish people celebrate St Andrew’s Day.
St Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland. He was one of the Twelve Apostles (disciples of Jesus) and brother of Simon Peter (Saint Peter). He was a fisherman by trade, who lived in Galilee (in present-day Israel).
St Andrew is believed to have died on a diagonally transversed cross which the Romans sometimes used for executions and which, therefore, came to be called St Andrew’s cross. The blue stands for the sky. That is why St Andrew’s symbol is a white cross on a blue background.
Around midnight on November 29, it was traditional for girls to pray to St Andrew for a husband. They would make a wish and look for a sign that they had been heard.
A girl wishing to marry could:
· Throw a shoe at a door. If the toe of the shoe pointed in the direction of the exit, then she would marry and leave her parents’ house within a year.
· Peel a whole apple without breaking the peel and throw the peel over the shoulder. If the peel formed a letter of the alphabet, then this suggested the name of her future groom.
The Saint’s day is celebrated with traditional Scottish food, music (especially bagpipes), dancing, and of course good Scotch.