Forget what you know about St George’s Day and take a flight to lively and Mediterranean Barcelona. On the 23rd April, this city celebrates a full journey of books, love and roses in a very curious way. If you want to find out more about this romantic festivity in one of the coolest European cities, don´t miss the following points.
- 1. San Jordi is the patron saint of Catalonia
It is thought that San Jordi was born around the 289 AD and that he became the saint of places such as England, Greece, Romania, Georgia and Catalonia. Sant Jordi was a Roman soldier that refused to execute a command of the emperor who persecuted Christians. For this reason, the saint was martyred and executed. Today every 23rd of April the city commemorates his death with hundreds of cultural events taking place across the city and with two very important ingredients: books & roses.
- 2. It’s the most romantic day of the year
It´s Spring and in Barcelona there is love in the air. Here people celebrate “El Día de los Amantes” (Lovers Day) or as it’s sometimes called “El Día de la Rosa” (Rose Day). In Catalonia this day is the equivalent of San Valentine´s Day, which is celebrated in the rest of the country. Most people offer roses with a little red and yellow flag, the symbol of four red stripes on a yellow background which symbolise the Catalonian official flag. Apart from their partners, men often give roses to relatives and friends.
- 3. Books & Roses
Who gives books and who gives roses? This is the question. The tradition tells us that men give their couples a rose, whereas women offer theirs a book. According to the old legend, Sant Jordi killed the dragon from Montblanc that was terrorising the whole city and with its blood a rose appeared that Jordi gave to his love, the princess. Today everyone in Catalonia knows that her or his partner will be waiting for either a rose or a book. Take a walk around the markets and flower selling points – you’ll literally see how the entire city becomes red and white.
- 4. The city celebrates World Book Day
World Book Day has been chosen by the UNESCO to pay a worldwide tribute to books and their authors, encouraging everyone to enjoy the pleasure of reading. Even though some European capitals such as London celebrate this day earlier on the calendar, the truth is that what really marks this festivity is the anniversary of the death of two important writers: Cervantes and Shakespeare. Anyone that visits Barcelona on this day will easily get lost in places like La Rambla or Plaza de Cataluña, where independent book shops sell books 24 hours a day. Even though most of the stands will be selling books in Spanish and Catalan, it´s important to say that because of the important number of English speakers living today in the city, it will also be possible to find great literature in Shakespeare´s language. In any case, just to feel the atmosphere of being surrounded by books, lovers from all the Catalonia region and roses will be worth it.
- 5. Special Sant Jordi´s Day activities and cultural events
San Jordi’s Day is not an official holiday in Spain, so you can find all the shops, bars and restaurants still opened. In addition, the city offers a full list of cultural events that will let you understand why Catalans love this day so much and how they feel about the whole journey. For instance, the city hall offers an open day for the public on Plaza de Sant Jaume, whereas the famous Plaza de Cataluña will turn into something similar to a TV studio, where many known Spanish and Catalan authors will be interviewed by journalists. For those with some knowledge of either Spanish or Catalan, don´t miss the chance to visit Barcelona´s theatres that will offer a 30 per cent discount on tickets until the end of the month.
Not too far from Barcelona, in Valencia it’s also popular to celebrate this festivity on the following day with the same exchange of books and roses. If you are travelling to the capital of Catalonia this day and you need accommodation, have a look at hotel prices with Expedia. For a full program about Sant Jordi´s Day visit Barcelona Turisme website. Felic Diada de San Jordi!
Marta López is a travel writer based in London. She loves literature, cinema and travelling. When she isn´t writing on her laptop she can be found around London´s parks reading a book.
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Date: 02 Apr-2014
Impression & Feelings: In Barcelona's most visited street, La Rambla, and all over Catalonia, thousands of stands of roses and makeshift bookstalls are hastily set up for the occasion. 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.