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Why St George's Day is no closer to being a bank holiday for England

The all-encompassing four days of revelry for St Patrick's Day were in huge contrast to the low-key, localised English celebration of St George today.

Last month, tens of thousands of tourists and revelers descended on Dublin for the annual St Patrick's Day festivities.

The streets of the Irish capital were a sea of green for the four-day festival which was also celebrated in cities across the world.

Ask a lot of English people what they're doing today, however, and it's a different story.

The date is St George's Day - but in contrast to the festival atmosphere of St Patrick's Day, it will pass without anywhere near the same fanfare.

There will be some celebrations of England's patron saint, of course, but they will mostly be localised, low-key affairs, compared to the all-encompassing parties across the Irish Sea.

Which begs the question 'Why?' And shouldn’t it also be a national bank holiday?

By contrast, St George's celebrations are likely to be much more low-key (PA)

The Irish, along with the Welsh on St David's Day and the Scottish on St Andrew's Day, seem to have a different relationship with their patron saint than the English.

Further afield, Americans celebrate the Fourth of July, and the French have Bastille Day, so why do the English not make more of their saint's day?

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Experts believe the English have an 'unusual anxiety' about the flag of St George, which is attributed to several factors.

For one, the devolution debate in Scotland and Wales has given these countries a renewed affinity with their national identity which isn't as widespread as in England.

Also, groups like the English Defence League have 'toxified' the flag of St George in recent years, according to think tank British Future.

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Their report, 'This Sceptred Isle', published last year, states: "England, the land of Shakespeare, seems uncertain how to find its modernity. It is ignoring England that now presents a greater threat to the Union than anything else."

Peter Mandler, Professor of Modern Cultural History at the University of Cambridge, believes the English simply don't share the same 'feelings of distinctiveness' as their Irish, Scottish and Welsh cousins.

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He told Yahoo! News: "St Patrick's Day was diffused around the world by Irish emmigrants, and the process took place on a spectacular scale as the Irish made it part of their ethnic identity.

"The English don't have that same feeling of distinctiveness.

An estimated 20,000 UK pubs participate in St Patrick's Day, shifting 4 million pints of Guinness (PA)

Crowds line the streets in Dublin, where St Patrick's Day will be four-day festival this year (PA)

"Even when the English went to Australia and America they didn't feel like a minority, so they didn't feel the need to bring their culture with them and celebrate it."

Prof Mandler believes nationality is also deemed a less important part of our identity than, say, our locality or our family.

He added: "People feel much more attached to their own personal values, and don't like losing that to larger groups of any kind."

Hilary Benn, the Shadow Communities Secretary, wrote in the Daily Telegraph on St George's Day last year about celebrating Englishness.

He said: "Each country should feel comfortable with celebrating its own identity while being part of a partnership from which we all derive benefit, security, mutual support, and greater influence in a changing world."

Experts say the St George's cross has been claimed by far-right groups in recent years (PA)Business experts say there are also economic reasons why England doesn't celebrate St George's Day.

A day off for the nation has to be paid for by someone - and the likely cost to the taxpayer would run into the millions - or even billions.

The Centre for Economics and Business did research which concluded every extra day off costs the UK economy £2.3billion.

Conversely, part of the strength of St Patrick's Day comes from its commercial appeal - more than 20,000 UK pubs celebrate the Guinness-sponsored holiday, shifting an estimated 4 million pints of the famed Irish drink.

Graham Smith, who runs a campaign to make St George's Day a bank holiday, said it is commercialism which has made St Patrick's Day the success it is today.

Mr Smith said: "Guinness has backed St Patrick's Day since the 1970s by putting millions into supporting it.

"In this country, we have been programmed by the government to not feel patriotic, but people should realise it is OK to feel proud of the country you live in."

British Future, a think tank, told Yahoo! St George's Day festivities do exist in England - they are just celebrated in an 'understated' way.

Rachael Jolley, editorial director at British Future, said: "We may not see the enormous parades that St Patrick's Day prompts, but that says something about England and the English. We like to be a bit understated. The kind of grand national day that the Americans indulge in for July 4th is not our way. We are mild, understated folk, who can on occasion like a bit of a party.

"This year expect more St George's Day events, but done in a very English way: gentle, un-coordinated and varying from pub quizzes to cake-making competitions, whatever they are they will feel distinctly English, and not a feeble imitation of somebody else's celebration."

Regardless of the strength of feeling behind a St Georges Day holiday, the government has yet to be persuaded.

A Department for Business spokesperson said last month: "The Government regularly receives requests to consider making changes to the pattern of bank holidays.

"We keep all these suggestions under consideration, however the number of permanent bank holidays in the UK is well established and there are no current plans to increase this."