Unlike St Patrick’s Day, during which many people like to don giant green hats and enjoy a Guinness or two, St George’s Day can often pass by with little fanfare.
Some people, though, take great honour in celebrating St George’s Day – which, by the way, is today – April 23. They see it as the perfect opportunity to display pride in their country, their heritage and history.
Unfortunately however, some people take this act of patriotism too far – marching through the streets with banners scrawled with slogans like ‘Refugees Not Welcome’ and believing the St George’s Cross stands for ‘purity’.
This year, anti-hate crime charity Tell MAMA set out to re-educate those who believe St George was British through and through, and decided to use the day and the patron saint to celebrate diversity instead.
Though little is known about him, historians do know St George was a 4th century Christian martyr who fought in the Roman army, and was killed around 303AD.
Though he is believed to be a national hero, thanks to tales of him fighting dragons, St George was actually born in Cappodocia – modern day Turkey and Syria – and it’s thought he died in Lydda, which is now Israel, as English Heritage states.
In fact, historians believe St George probably never visited England in his lifetime, and the tales of dragon slayings were dreamt up in medieval times.
In order to spread their message of diversity, Tell MAMA handed out t-shirts to far-right demonstrators who were marching towards the Cenotaph from Trafalgar Square this weekend, April 20.
As the above video shows, the t-shirts appear to be emblazoned with a St George’s Cross. However, when they’re warmed up by the body heat of the wearer, a message appears saying: ‘St George was Syrian #DefendDiversity’.
As the charity writes:
The St. George’s Cross has become an icon of the xenophobic far-right. Somewhat ironic considering St. George was part Syrian, Greek, Turkish and Palestinian.
This St. George’s Day, we thought we’d use heat-reactive t-shirts to reclaim the flag and teach the far-right a lesson about how important diversity is to our country. St George is the perfect symbol for multiculturalism.
The charity asked a few demonstrators what St George’s Day meant to them, receiving answers such as: ‘St George’s Cross – that means England, born and bred’, ‘Our flag is red and white, not red and brown’, and ‘Purity’.
England isn’t the only place to recognise St George’s Day either, as Venice, Genoa, Portugal and Catalonia are among other places to celebrate the saint.
Let’s hope these so-called patriots learn from the history lesson.
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Charlie Cocksedge is a journalist at UNILAD. He graduated from the University of Manchester with an MA in Creative Writing, where he learnt how to write in the third person, before getting his NCTJ. His work has also appeared in such places as The Guardian, PN Review and the bin.