We might also note the lack of any meaningful celebration of St George’s Day as a national festival, and a rejection by the political class of the English national identity, as if any public expression of English cultural tradition was inevitably racist and offensive. Earlier this year Bristol City Council failed to commemorate St George’s Day in any way, stating, “We don't normally tend to do anything, as Bristol is a city with 91 different languages and it would be very difficult to commemorate them all.”
But this is exactly why the preservation of the historical traditions of the British Isles and people is so important. To act as though every one of the 91 or more cultures represented in Bristol should receive exactly the same degree of public notice is to have already determined that the British culture and heritage which defines the British people is of no relative importance at all. If there is no British culture and society worth supporting in this way, then surely what is being proposed as the social ambition of political elites in Bristol and across the nation, is that 1,500 years of a coherent and cohesive British culture and society be supplanted by a fragmented and competing social landscape of 91 or more societies with little in common beyond geography.
Many of those disparate groups came to the UK to enjoy its prosperous economic conditions and, perhaps its freedom of expression or religion. However, the economic dynamism and spirit of religious tolerance is rooted in a uniquely British culture, built upon its expression of Western values rooted most significantly in its adherence to the Christian faith and the morality of the Ten Commandments.
To discard this from public memory is to misunderstand the meaning of the calendar of social commemorations, so deeply rooted in our British history and tradition. Far from excluding others, they have the function of including all. Christmas, as celebrated by the British, was and is both a joyful Christian celebration of the birth of Christ and a social expression of a shared life in liberty. St George’s Day is functionally – together with St. David’s Day, St. Andrew’s Day, and St. Patrick’s Day – intended as a reinforcement and strengthening of patriotic social bonds among all those who identify themselves as English, Welsh, Scots, and Irish, whatever their ethnic origins. In the same way Armistice Day, all of the anniversaries of the First and Second World Wars, the Diamond Jubilee, the Queen’s Birthday, and every other celebration have the potential to sustain the coherence of our British society rather than to exclude and divide.
To be British, or English, or Scots, or Welsh, or Irish, is to share in these cultural and traditional expressions of our shared society, irrespective of natural ethnicity and background. It is in the context of a unity in liberty to celebrate these events that all of us may become part of this one society. Nor are natural and ethnic differences entirely sublimated, but they find their proper place when we are able to join together in the cultural traditions of the British culture, of the culture that is able to make others welcome because of a shared cultural inheritance and not despite it.
As soon as the people of Aleppo found themselves at liberty they expressed their social coherence in a public celebration of a shared event which was rooted in their own history and tradition. They were saying: We are still here, and we are free! How much do we also need to find such a similar attitude in our British circumstances, because it is only in the expression of our own culture and history that we can preserve, and even revive, the experience of celebrating together, celebrating something meaningful together, which is the basis of society.