Sant Jordi’s Day falls on April 23, which is also international book day. As Sant Jordi, otherwise known as Saint George, is one of the patron saints of Catalonia, it is considered a very important day in our country and holds romantic significance similar to that of Valentine’s Day.
If you are lucky enough to be in Barcelona on Sant Jordi’s Day, make sure not to miss this festivity that brings joy throughout the city. Throughout the streets, especially in the centre, you will find book and rose sellers, which will delight you with all their colour. As Sant Jordi’s Day is still a working day, many locals go and visit the celebrations in the afternoon when they can have a walk around and enjoy the festivities.
Origin of Sant Jordi
The story of Sant Jordi is one that is well-known throughout many cultures. In Catalonia the legend goes like this: a dragon was terrorising the local village of Montblanc, eating all the animals and people he was found throughout the town, so the King had to find a solution to the problem. He decided that they had to feed the dragon, and chose one person per day at random to offer as a sacrifice, so the Dragon wouldn’t attack the rest of the town. However, one day the Princess of Montblanc was chosen as a sacrifice. Luckily, just as the dragon was about to eat her, a knight rode in on a white horse to save her. It was Sant Jordi! He nailed his spear in the heart of the dragon and killed it, saving the Princess. From the blood of the dragon, a rose appeared and Sant Jordi gave it to the Princess.
Sant Jordi’s Day is recorded as being celebrated as a rose fair as far back as the 15th century. As the celebration was particularly popular with couples, it is thought that this is where the tradition of giving a rose to a loved one began, as a homage to the rose given by Sant Jordi to the Princess.
The Sant Jordi’s day traditions associated with books began in the early twentieth century. The Valencian writer, Vicent Clavel, proposed that the Official Chamber of the Book and the Booksellers’ Guild set a day to promote the sale of books. They chose October 7, 1929, to coincide with the Universal Exhibition that took place in Barcelona, and it was so successful that they decided to change the date to a time when the weather encouraged even more people to go out. The chosen day was on April 23, when two important writers died: the Spanish author of Don Quijote, Miguel de Cervantes, and the English writer William Shakespeare.
How we celebrate Sant Jordi’s Day?
Sant Jordi’s Day is a celebration of culture and love, where traditionally men buy roses for women and women buy books for men. Nowadays, it is becoming more common for men to also buy books for women, as well as giving them roses. As well as being a romantic gesture, roses are also given to friends or from parents, so it’s possible to see women with more than one rose!
The centre of Barcelona comes alive with book stands and rivers of people with roses in their hands. The best streets to wonder through are La Rambla, Rambla de Catalunya and Passeig de Gràcia, as well as Plaça Catalunya. Throughout these streets there are hundreds of book sellers offering up many different types of books, from children’s books to cook books, the latest novels and much more. It is also quite common to see authors at the stands signing their books, often with long queues forming. If you want to buy a book for your loved one on Sant Jordi’s Day, strolling down these boulevards is the perfect place to do so.
If it’s a rose you are after, you can find stands on almost every corner in the city. These days, as well as the traditional rose, it is also possible to find original creations, such as roses made from silk or other materials. Even if you are not looking to buy anything, there is a fantastic atmosphere in the city. By the way, do not miss the chance to see Casa Batlló decorated in roses!
If you are going to be in Barcelona over Sant Jordi’s Day, make sure not to miss out on the romanticism and book one of our beautiful apartments in the city centre.