Roses, books and lovers: Barcelona is full of them on 23 April
Sant Jordi, or Saint George’s Day is much more than a simple feast day in Barcelona. It is the Catalan equivalent to Valentine’s Day and love is in the air!
It is a very traditional festivity that combines culture and romanticism. That day, on 23 April, according to tradition couples exchange gifts: a book for the men and a rose for the women. Book and flower stalls are set up along the streets of Barcelona. They fill will people walking around stalls, looking for a gift for their beloved, and for their family and friends, too. You will be able to find the latest publications, see well-known artists signing copies of their books, and of course, smell the scent of the roses.
This curious festival comes from a mixture of traditions from different periods. It coincides, on one hand, with the fact that Sant Jordi has been the patron saint of Catalonia since the 15th century; on the other hand, it comes from the famous legend of St. George and the dragon and the old medieval tradition of visiting the Chapel of Sant Jordi in the Government Palace, where a rose fair or «lovers» fair used to take place. This is why Sant Jordi is also the patron saint of lovers in Catalonia.
It´s all known as La Diada de Sant Jordi, el Día de la Rosa (The Day of the Rose) or El Día del Llibre (The Day of the Book) and by the end of the day, some four million roses and 800,000 books will have been purchased. Most women will carry a rose in hand, and half of the total yearly book sales in Catalonia take place on this occasion.
The sardana, the national dance of Catalonia, is performed throughout the day in the Plaça Sant Jaume in Barcelona. Many book stores and cafes host readings by authors (including 24-hour marathon readings of different classics of Catalan literature or Spanish literature). Street performers and musicians in public squares add to the day’s atmosphere.
Catalonia exported its tradition of the book and the rose to the rest of the world. In 1995, UNESCO adopted 23 April as World Book Day.
The story of Sant Jordi
Saint George was a hero – he saved a beautiful Princess who was about to come to a sticky end at the hands of a dragon who had been terrorising a village.