Next Tuesday, April 23, Barcelona will once again dress up to celebrate, one more year, one of its most important festivals: the Sant Jordi Day.
Every 23rd of April Catalonia celebrates one of its main festivities, Sant Jordi (St George), its patron saint. Traditionally during this day men gave to their beloved a rose. But, in modern times, it has also became tradition for women to give a book in return, as it is also the anniversary of the death of two literary giants: Shakespeare and Cervantes.
The legend tells that once upon a time, a terrible dragon was terrifying a village in Catalonia called Montblanc. The dragon caused panic among the population and ate up the village’s pasture animals. To assuage the dragon’s anger, the villagers decided they would sacrifice someone every day, chosen by lot and offered to the dragon as a gesture of good will.
But one dark day, the person who was going to be sacrificed was the king’s daughter. Before the dragon could swallow her, a splendid knight appeared and attacked the cursed beast. This was Sant Jordi. He thrust his spear into the dragon and from the beast’s blood a rose bush with bright red roses arose. Ever since then, it has been a custom in Catalonia to present one’s beloved with a rose.
Books? Roses? Dragons? Lovers?
Under a blue spring sky, with bookstalls lining Barcelona’s main streets, and everyone, men and women, carrying roses and books for loved-ones, it makes perfect sense: It’s the most important date in the calendar for the city’s publishing houses and booksellers, who bring best-selling authors from Spain and abroad to sign their latest works. And you can buy a long-stemmed rose (with a sprig of wheat, a symbol of fertility) on every corner, many sold to raise money for local causes.
In addition, the 23rd of April has also been declared the World Book and Copyright Day since 1996, when UNESCO declared the festivity world event.