Each April when all cities of Catalonia are covered by a colorful and aromatic blanket of flowers and the sunshine kisses its cities, a special festival is celebrated in the name of their patron Sant Jordi. The festival “La Diada de Sant Jordi” is celebrated on April 23 where participants show their love to others with books and red roses in the name of their patron Sant Jordi or St. George in English.
The legend of Sant Jordi
According to a traditional legend, a dragon was terrorizing Catalan villagers and it was eating all the animals. One day the villagers decided to sacrifice one person per day for the fearsome beast. One day the person selected turned out to be the princess of Catalonia. There is a story that mentions that Sant Jordi, who was a Christian who is venerated as a saint in Christianity, killed the dragon that caught the princess of Catalonia. A bush of red roses appeared on the ground where the dragon’s blood was spilled. Since then, Sant Jordi has become a legend in Barcelona and across Catalonia. The day of Sant Jordi has been celebrated over hundreds of years and has become an important element of Catalonian culture. “La Diada de Sant Jordi” was officially established in 1427 as the most celebrated patriotic and cultural day in Catalonia.
How do Catalans celebrate Sant Jordi?
In a romantic way, Sant Jordi’s Day is the Catalan equivalent to Valentine’s Day. Indeed, it is a very special festival that combines World Book Day and Valentine’s Day as a fusion of culture and love, represented by books, roses and other gifts. The tradition continues and nowadays, it’s still a tradition for Catalans to exchange gifts to express affection and love on this special day.
Books were woven into the celebration because April 23rd is the anniversary of two great authors’ deaths: Shakespeare and Miguel de Cervantes. Traditionally, men receive a book and women receive a rose. However, there is no rule so both men and women can receive books and roses. There is a rule to whom you will give a gift to either, so if you walk around Catalonian streets on this day, open your heart and buy a red rose or book to whoever you come across with, to your friend, to your lover, to your partner or to someone who walks on the street and smiles at you. Feel free to buy and give to whoever you wish. In today’s forward thinking society rules are no longer set regarding who gets what. Life has changed and most people now choose to be more flexible and open in regards to traditions.
Celebrating Sant Jordi in Barcelona
Sant Jordi’s Day is a very popular festival in villages and cities of Catalonia. It’s also very popular in the capital Barcelona. Barcelona, which abbreviated form used by local citizens is Barna, is full of beautiful stalls of fresh red roses and books along Las Ramblas. Las Ramblas is an emblematic avenue in the heart of Barna that connects the Plaça de Catalunya with the Christopher Columbus Monument in Port Vell. Every year on April 23, Las Ramblas boulevard is filled with locals, tourists and couples looking for a book to surprise their partners and friends or for an aromatic rose wrapped with ribbons with the colors of the Catalan flag.
This festival is not a public holiday so all restaurants, cafes and bars around are open all hours to serve breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner. As a business traveler, I visited Barcelona several times after the national lockdown and I came to Las Ramblas on this peculiar day. Fortunately, last time I visited it, I received a fresh red rose and a book called “The Sagrada Familia” by Gijs Van Hensbergen by an anonymous person I crossed paths with. I walked along Las Ramblas and there was live music, stalls with delicious food, quality street performances, poetry recitals, book readings and processions of giant figures. As it was becoming crowded , I decided to get a cab and visit one of the restaurants in the charming and mysterious Gothic quarter. I went to its medieval streets that are full of trendy bars, clubs and Catalonian restaurants. The Gothic quarter is a 12 minute drive from Las Ramblas. I really love this area as it is a very cosmopolitan place to visit and relax whilst having a drink or a meal.
Having my lunch all alone, I crossed with a very friendly waiter who recommended ordering a “pa Sant Jordi” as an appetizer, which is a dough containing sobrasada sausage and walnuts on a yellow background made from parmesan cheese dough. After a while, the same waiter recommended that I visit The Plaça Sant Jaume, which is worth visiting on this special celebration day. There you can attend a traditional Catalan folk dance performance from 3pm to 8pm.
For dessert, I ate an almond milk pudding called “menjar blanc” with a catalan cava “Gran Sala Cava Gran Reserva”. I read several pages of my new book and a new idea came to my mind about planning a new visit to Barcelona this time to see again its emblematic Basilica “La Sagrada Familia”. This eminent monument calls the attention of the world for being an unique and unfinished heavenly building. The Sagrada Familia is a project that will be finished in 2026 due to its unique and innovative architecture. This huge project is financed with donations and visitors tickets money, Catalan and Spanish governments do not contribute to financing the construction of this Cathedral, started by Gaudi in 1882.
How to celebrate Sant Jordi’s Day?
-Make your own roses with red paper and decorate your balconies.
-Send a red rose, a bunch of red roses or a book to a colleague, customer, friend, wife, husband, neighbor,…
-Host a virtual book club on Zoom with colleagues.
-Spend the day reading an interesting book or listening to audiobooks.
-Watch a romantic movie such as “Shakespeare in love” or “Dead Poets Society”.
As a business traveler I encourage you to visit Barcelona on April 23 to enjoy the local festivities, food and lovely weather. As the Chief Marketing Officer of the Ya-Hub Translations company, I confirm that letters, words, languages, red roses and books can move and connect the world from one side to another.
Happy Sant Jordi’s Day to all of you!! A day of Literature and Love! It is not only a day to celebrate love, it’s also a day to celebrate the love for books!!