Some thoughts on Saint George’s Day, the English culture, and multiculturalism.

First published in April 2021.

My comments regarding Saint George’s Day aren’t intended to mock those celebrating it, but there are some issues which need addressing.

Yes, the way opponents of it act, while celebrating St Patrick’s Day etc, does seem weird, but there maybe good reason.

I am a mongrel, and proud of it. I am a mix of different nationalities through both my parents’ sides. It means I can get away with marking a few different patron saints days, so why is St George’s Day such an issue?

As a kid I was in the scouts and marched in the St George’s Day parade. Both in combined cadet force at school and TA afterwards I marked it with the rest. I have never really had an issue with that. Lots of countries celebrate patron saints, and fair enough.

I am Christian, albeit with a complicated faith, so much so that at one stage I was seriously contemplating becoming a vicar, and, again, have no issues with marking saints’ days. It is when patriotism veers into nationalism that I have an issue.

English culture is pretty much entirely built on migration, both immigration and emigration, yet when we see people banging on about St George, too many are saying we shouldn’t accept migrants.

That goes against what “English culture” actually is.

This year, in particular, we are faced with a government which is trying to rewrite history and silence opposing views. They want to shut down discussion over the – shall we say – less than stellar activities which have helped form “English culture”.

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Sadly, and I do mean sadly because you should be able to be proud of your country, the flag has been hijacked as part of some faux “culture war”. A country is more than a flag or a patron saint though. It is the people who helped form it, and that includes a lot of migrants.

“Multiculturalism” isn’t some dirty word to be thrown around as an insult, which is what it has become. Multiculturalism is the very essence of “English culture”, and St George actually represents that pretty well.

A Roman soldier from Turkey.

Perfect in my opinion.

Prof Alice Roberts

In the third century, a Roman soldier, born in (what is now) Turkey, joined a growing cult and was executed for it, inspiring other martyrs. When the cult later became the official religion of the Roman Empire, the soldier inspired a popular subcult of his own in Palestine...  

The Empire persisted as a religious power structure in Europe and the Middle East, and many churches were dedicated to that Turkish soldier, right across the territory of the old empire - from the Levant in the east to Britain in the west.

The military cult became associated with orders of knighthood across Europe in the Middle Ages. When England split away from the church still run from Rome, all banners of saints except for that of the Anatolian soldier were banned - he was just too popular.

At some point, a myth about dragon-slaying became attached to that soldier. He became adopted as the patron saint of many territories that he never set foot in: Georgia, Ethiopia, Aragon and Catalonia, Portugal, Brazil, Bulgaria, Moscow, Serbia and Montenegro... and England.

It is the hijacking though, that’s what I oppose. It is the idea that “English culture” means “white”. That it means stopping immigration. That it means demonising people of other cultures.

That’s not what “English culture” is.

It also shouldn’t be synonymous with “Christianity”. We are meant to live in a plural society. The first mosque was set up in the UK in 1889, ten years before that quintessentially British thing of brown sauce was invented.

So that’s why I think there is a reasonable argument for why people are more snarky about St George’s Day than other patron saints. Not because of what it stood for, but of what it has been turned into by those who want to deny what “English culture” is... multiculturalism.

It’s also worth remembering that “English culture” is constantly evolving. The culture of today is different from the culture of 50 years ago. Cultures which stagnate die out. I am happy to mark a day when we recognise that rather than some false idea of a Britain which never was

Dan Sohege, Human rights advocate, international refugee law specialist, immigration economist, charity fundraising professional and Director of Stand For All.


[This piece was first published as a Twitter thread and turned into the above article on 23 April 2021 with the purpose of reaching a larger audience. It has been minorly edited and corrected, and published with the author’s consent. | The author of the tweets writes in a personal capacity.]

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