April is a lovely month in Catalonia! The weather is warm with ideal temperatures and the city is full of events. Barcelona is a vibrant city, but during the spring festivals, you can feel a special energy spread over the city. I absolutely love it!
The Sant Jordi day, held on the 23rd of April, is one of the most popular festivals here. And as far as traditions go, I think this is one of the sweetest in Catalan culture. It’s a celebration of love and books, with a long tradition.
“A rose for love and a book forever” – On this day, romanticism and culture come together in a single emotion for Sant Jordi. The tradition wants lovers and friends to exchange gifts: men give the ladies a rose and ladies give the men a book.
Not in this order necessary. I usually ask for a book.
But what I actually love about this holiday is that on this special day Barcelona is more welcoming, enthusiastic and generous city. Its streets and squares are transformed in community cultural spaces where the local artists make the performance. Book and flower stalls are set up along the streets of Barcelona (especially in Rambla de Catalunya). You will be able to find the latest publications, see well-known artists signing copies of their books, and of course, smell the sweet scent of the roses at all time.
But lets also step a moment in the word of the fairy tales, shall we?
The legend of Sant Jordi is known all over the world and tells the tale of a dragon terrorizing a small town called Montblanc. In an attempt to appease the hungry dragon the inhabitants of Montblanc make the difficult decision to sacrifice different members of the town. Furthermore, they decided to do this by lottery.
Unfortunately, it was the princess that was chosen. As she bravely sets out to her fate, Saint George shows up and slays the fiery dragon with his sword. As the legend goes, a rose sprouted up out of the dragon’s blood. It was then that Saint George presented it to the princess, probably kneeling in a most chivalrous fashion!
Hence the tradition of giving the gift of a rose on Sant Jordi.
Now, giving a book in return is a different story. This tradition doesn’t come from Sant Jordi himself. It comes from Shakespeare and Cervantes.
Both authors died on the same day, on 23rd April, and in the same year of 1616. This is how the international ‘World Book Day’ started and the tradition of rose giving was expanded to include the ladies giving the men a book on Sant Jordi’s day.
Nice, right? A bit of diversity and an unique Valentine´s Day. Hope you can visit and experiment it at least once!