Monday, April 26, 2010

St George almost ignored by the English

Friday 23rd April is was St George's Day, but one could easily pass the event by without noticing. While greater efforts have been made this year to promote the patron saint of England, many English could be forgiven to thinking it was a day like any other. A pageant took to the streets of London for the first time since the time of Queen Elizabeth I, but most spectators were tourists rather than patriots since most English citizens were busy working at their desks. This after all is not a national holiday. And the enthusiasm for St George and his mythical dispatching of a dragon is little more than a passing thought in many people's mind. A few flags fluttered across Britain and some pubs made the effort to draw in custom, but there is still the fear amongst many that the raising of the English flag might be interpreted as racist given its hijacking by right with groups. Calling people in England and mentioning St George's Day was met with indifference or surprise. Some English had not even been aware of the even while others had not celebrated their patriotism in anyway.

More than 6000 km away one might think there would be a hint of English national pride amongst expats living away from home. St Patrick's Day was widely celebrated across Beijing. There were many bars selling Guinness cheap and Irish flags decorated many establishments. But St George was almost completely ignored. The Chamber of Commerce did organise an event on Saturday costing patrons in excess of £88 to partake in an evening of English tucker and gin & tonics. On the less expensive end was an event in Sanlitun's Luga's Villa. This was billed as a St George's Day party but apart from the two for one offer on English Bombadier beer, there was little here that could be regarded as English. There were no St George's flags to bee seen anywhere. The hundreds that gathered in this Mexican restaurant come bar [yes, that's right, Mexican] had come only for the free 'local beer' that was on offer between 8 and 10pm. Almost on the stroke of ten most people evaporated into the area around Sanlitun. There were a few Brits still hanging one, drinking their English beer and eating hotdogs at £1.50, but there was little celebration. There was no rejoicing in bellowing Jerusalem or Land of Hope and Glory. Only the sounds of Blur over the speakers gave any feel of Englishness.
So why the lack of enthusiasm for St George? Is it the fact he probably wasn't English and that there are no, nor have there ever been dragons? One Englishman in Luga's Villa said, "I guess we're stuck with it, but he doesn't really represent England." Well, maybe not, but is that a reason to forget one's Englishness or patriotism? Perhaps the English have never been as patriotic as other nations. Maybe that's how the reserved Englishman prefers it. 

tvnewswatch, Beijing, China

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