Scouting has permeated the globe for over 100 years. Since it has become such a global movement, different traditions now exist within the various Scouting programs across the world.
For instance, the U.S. and several other countries celebrate Scouts’ Day — the birth of Scouting’s Founders — on February 22. Indonesia celebrates Pramuka Day — the celebration of the national Scouts of Indonesia’s first public parade in 1961 — on August 14. Argentina celebrates the Scout and Good Action Day — the celebration of Scouts through charity work and donations.
There are many other celebratory days in Scouting, but one day many people may not have heard of is Saint George’s Day.
Origin of Saint George’s Day
Saint George’s Day is currently celebrated on April 23rd among several different countries and churches. However, some churches celebrate on a different day when Saint George’s Day is too close to Easter.
This special day began in 1415 in England as a celebratory feast in honor of Saint George, the patron saint of England. Scouts began celebrating this day when Lord Baden-Powell chose Saint George to be the patron saint for Scouting. When referring to the saint, He was quoted saying the following:
“When he was faced by a difficulty or danger, however great it appeared, even in the shape of a dragon – he did not avoid it or fear it but went at it with all the power he could… That is exactly the way a Scout should face a difficulty or danger no matter how great or how terrifying it may appear. They should go at it boldly and confidently, using every power that they can to try and overcome it, and the probability is that they will succeed. St George’s Day is April 23, and on that day, Scouts remind themselves of their Promise and Scout Law. Not that a Scout ever forgets either but, on St George’s Day, they make a special point of thinking about them. Remember this when April 23 comes round again.”
So who was Saint George, and what was he really known for?
The Legend of Saint George and the Dragon
According to BBC, “Saint George is the patron saint of England.” He was martyred for refusing to deny his Christian faith before Emperor Diocletian.
Although not everything is understood about him, the story most attributed to George comes from The Golden Legend, which is a group of hagiographies compiled by Jacobus da Varagine. Saint George and the Dragon is just one of the many stories contained in the book. This legend tells the tale of a heroic knight, a captured princess, and a cruel dragon. There are many variations of this story including this version found on The Scout Association page.
In this version, an evil enchantress kidnaps the young Saint George. As George matures, he hungers for a life of adventure. However, the wicked enchantress tries to make him stay with her.
He manages to escape and embarks upon the journey of a lifetime. Upon his journey, he stumbles on a town that has been persecuted by a malicious dragon for 20 years. To make matters worse, he discovers that the princess of this town has been selected to be sacrificed to the dragon.
He offers his services to the town and promises to slay the dragon and save the princess. George engages in a fierce battle with the dragon and delivers the final blow, slaying the beast. He sets the princess free, and the two are wed.
Celebrating Saint George’s Day
Scouts first began celebrating Saint George’s day by marching through the town dressed in their uniforms. Reenactments of St. George slaying the dragon have also been part of the tradition.
Additionally, the day has a served as an opportunity for Scouts to renew their promises. The Scout Promise is similar to the Scout Oath; it’s a recommitment for a Scout to do everything that they promised to do when they joined the organization.
Ideally, this day should be a way for youth and adults to promote Scouting among community members and all who are willing to participate.
As the years have gone by, the traditions have changed. According to an article written by The Telegraph in 2012, the parades have become less popular among the younger generations in England. Some Scouts feel embarrassed to be seen parading through the streets by their comrades.
As the world and Scouting continue to change, it’s expected that traditions in this celebratory day will change as well. After all, Scouting is a global movement that’s constantly evolving.