Friday, May 6, 2016

Saint George Day 2016

Families enjoying St. George Day

On Saturday, 23 April 2016 a group gathered to celebrate Saint George (Mar Jirjus), the patron saint of England and Beirut, and raise funds for the restoration of the Anglo-American Cemetery of Beirut.

The festivities took place at the Colonel brewery in northern seaside city of Batroun and were attended by numerous guests, including His Excellency Hugo Shorter, British Ambassador to Lebanon. Events included a historic tour of the city, a visit to Saint Georges Church, and a cricket match organized by the Saint George’s Cricket Club of Lebanon. The traditional British delicacy of “Bangers mash and onion gravy” were served (in addition to the host’s Colonel beer). Funds were raised through the sale of raffles and the donation of a beautiful painting by Tom Young. Clothing and non-perishable foods were also collected for the needy in Lebanon.

UK Ambassador Hugo Shorter with Jamil Haddad, owner of Colonel Beer
According to tradition, Saint George was to born in the 3rd Century to Christian parents in Lydda, Palestine (although some accounts say that he was born in Anatolia, but raised in Palestine). He joined the Roman army and it was as a soldier that he accomplished his most famous feat: slaying the dragon.

Bruce Condè wrote, “Beirut being blockaded by a monster who periodically arose out of a small lake or well between the town and the river, to terrorize the inhabitants, the people begged their ruler to accede to the creature's demand for the surrender of his daughter as the price of the city's freedom.  As the weeping princess left the Bab es-Serail (east) gate of the town walls, St. George rescued her from the dragon, killing it a short distance from the well and freeing the city.” 

icon from Saint George Maronite Cathedral
Following this and other conquests, George traveled to Britain and eventually challenged Emperor Diocletian’s order to persecute Christians. As a result, George was martyred on 23 April (according to the Gregorian Calendar)/ 6 May (according to the Julian Calendar), which are dates that he is commemorated.

Saint George (Mar Jirjus) is unique in that he is one of the few saints revered by both “eastern” and “western” churches. In central Beirut are located the Saint George Maronite Cathedral as well as Saint Georges Greek Orthodox Cathedral. Within Muslim communities he is sometimes referred to as “al-Khadr” (Saint Elias also shares this distinction). Events, such as the annual Saint George Day, are important in that they bring together individuals from different nationalities and religious backgrounds in Lebanon—an ideal also upheld by the Anglo-American Cemetery.
Guests enjoying the festivities

The Anglo-American Cemetery Association would like to thank Ms. Sabina Llewellyn-Davies for coordinating this event and her support for the Anglo-American Cemetery, the generous donation by D.G.Jones & Partners (ME) Ltd towards the AACA’s restoration work, Jamil Haddad and Colonel Brewery for hosting the event, and all who attended and supported this worthy cause.

Christine B. Lindner
6 May 2016

Photographs courtesy of Sabina Llewellyn-Davies and Jonathan Mayers

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