The annual celebration of Saint George on April 23 is one of the most important feasts in the Orthodox calendar. Almost all Greek households have someone called Georgios or Georgia among close or distant relatives or friends.
However, this year Saint George’s day coincided with Holy Tuesday.
According to the Christian calendar, whenever April 23 is within Lent, and therefore during the fasting period, Saint George’s day is moved to immediately after Easter.
This year Georgios and Georgias all over Greece and abroad will celebrate their name day on Monday, April 29.
Very little is known about St George’s life, but it is thought he was a Roman officer of Greek descent from Cappadocia who was martyred in one of the pre-Constantinian persecutions.
There are two main versions of the legend, a Greek and a Latin version, which can both be traced to the fifth or sixth century.
In the Greek tradition, George was born to Greek Christian parents in Cappadocia. His father died for the faith when George was only fourteen, and his mother returned with George to her homeland of Syria Palaestina.
A few years later, George’s mother died. George then traveled to the capital, Nicomedia, and joined the Roman army.
George was persecuted for his faith by a man called Dadianus. In later versions of the Greek legend, this name is rationalized to Diocletian, and George’s martyrdom is placed in the Diocletian persecution of AD 303.
George was executed by decapitation before Nicomedia’s city wall, on April 23, 303. A witness of his suffering convinced Empress Alexandra of Rome to become a Christian as well, so she joined George in martyrdom. His body was returned to Lydda for burial, where Christians soon came to honor him as a great martyr, or hieromartyr, not only one who dies for the faith but whose heroic death leads others to accept Christianity.