As St. George’s Day is celebrated across Manchester and beyond today, inevitable comparisons will be made to its Irish counterpart, St. Patrick’s Day.
MM explores whether one set of patriots appear more passionate about their flagship day or whether the two national celebrations can co-exist and prosper together.
According to legend, one drove all the snakes from his country and one heroically slayed a dragon and rescued the princess.
One is St. Patrick, patron saint of Ireland, and the other is England’s patron saint, St. George.
There are definite similarities to be drawn between the two, and indeed between their respective nations, but there can be no doubt that the Irish national day is the more eagerly celebrated event worldwide.
Manchester certainly embraces the two days and both national festivals and parades aim to bring the city together and provide Mancunians with an event where different national identities are celebrated.
However, St. Patrick’s Day on March 17 is traditionally bigger in Manchester than St. George’s Day celebrations on April 23.
Why is this, however? Are the Irish more passionate about their cultural background than the English? Are the English too nonchalant when it comes to expressing their patriotism?
In March, MM took to the streets of Manchester to ask whether or not St. Patrick’s Day is taken more seriously here than its English counterpart.
80% of the people we spoke to agreed that there is a difference in attitudes towards the two events and believed that Irish exiles hold a greater sense of importance in terms of national identity.
Jack Bradshaw, 62, from Rusholme, is the organiser of this weekend’s St. George’s Day Festival and he admits there is a notable difference in the scale of the respective celebrations in Manchester.
“We’re not in the same league. They’re Premier League and we’re Championship.
“I think it’s a culture thing and as a country we’re very laid back where England is concerned.
“We need to maintain our identity to ensure we’re not forgotten,” he said.
The St. George’s Day Festival 2012 launched on Friday to an empty Albert Square and although the heavy rain undoubtedly played its part, the Manchester Irish Festival was undeniably bigger this year than its English friend.
The Manchester Irish Festival, which ran from March 2 – 18, featured iconic Irish musicians, The Dubliners, and eccentric songbird Sinead O’Connor.
It was endorsed by Irish Prime Minister, Enda Kenny, as the biggest celebration of its kind in Europe outside of the Emerald Isle.
Speaking of the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade in Manchester, organiser Brian Kennedy claimed the friendly atmosphere is always embraced by Mancunian revellers.
“It is a great free day out for all the family and everyone in Manchester wears something green and puts a smile on their face.”
Mr Bradshaw echoed the importance of making the celebrations a community event and accessible to people of different ages and cultural backgrounds.
He said: “We don’t throw it down people’s throats but we want people to come together as a community.
Everyone has their own religion, their own culture and their own national identity and we support that.”
Joanne McNamara, 66, is originally from Eccles but is of Irish descent. Her parents moved from Co. Kilkenny in 1942 and she considers herself half-Irish and half-English.
She regularly attends both celebrations and enjoys both equally.
“I do think that St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated more than St. George’s day in Manchester for whatever reason.
There’s an idea that the Irish know how to enjoy themselves and I think that’s something that most of us either can relate to or want to be a part of,” she said.
Mrs McNamara has noticed a difference in attitudes towards both events but dismisses the idea that St. George’s Day might be considered of less importance in Manchester than St. Patrick’s Day.
“I see no reason why both celebrations can’t exist and prosper together,” she added.
What Manchester is saying about it:
Aubrey Wilson, Financial Advisor, 27, Prestwich.
“Manchester’s diverse cultural range means St. George’s Day goes by largely unnoticed”
Rachel Leonard, Office clerk, 28, Fallowfield.
“The Irish seem to be more passionate about their culture than the English.”
Brendan Davies, 41, Banker, Sale.
“I think it’s great to see people embracing their culture and their national identity and I wish St. George’s Day was as big.”