Diada de Sant Jordi | Saint George’s Day
Diada de Sant Jordi, also known as Saint George’s Day, is a special celebration in Barcelona. It is the Catalan equivalent to Valentine’s day but with a twist. Every year Diada de Sant Jordi is held on the 23rd of April. Others may call it Dia de los Amantes, which means Day of the Lovers. The name Sant Jordi came about in the year 303 when Saint George died on the 23rd of April. At the time he was the patron saint of Catalonia. In his honour the Diada de Sant Jordi was created. Even though it is not a public holiday you can see a lot of people on the streets celebrating each year. The shops and restaurants are open as usual but then with pretty decorations, this way you can feel the incredible atmosphere everywhere in Barcelona.
Each year, the streets fill with people strolling around, carrying books and roses wrapped in ribbons in the colours of the Catalan flag. The idea is that men gift women roses, while women gift men books. The thing that makes Saint George’s Day so special is that it’s a celebration of love, regardless of whether you are in a relationship or not. Therefore, you can celebrate this day with anybody you want, not necessarily just your partner. In this instance, boys usually buy roses for their mums and girls buy books for their friends. But in today’s forward-thinking society, these rules no loner apply. You can give your gift to whoever you like, their gender doesn’t matter. Therefore, nothing stands in the way of a girl receiving books or a boy receiving roses.
Origin of Saint George’s Day
Gifting roses during Saint George’s Day is a tradition which found its origin in the tale of the dragon of Montblanc. The tale tells the story of a dragon that used to plague the town called Montblanc. In order to please the dragon the town’s people decided to feed it with whatever they had. After a while they ran out of things to feed the dragon with. So, they decided to draw lots. The unlucky person drawn, was fed to the dragon. This procedure carried on for a while. However, the time came when the Princess’s name was drawn. As the dragon was about to eat her, a white knight appeared and rescued the princess. The knight eventually killed the dragon with his sword, saving the entire city. But as the dragon was bleeding, a peculiar thing happened. From where the blood of the dragon spilled, a rosebush appeared. The knight plucked a rose from the bush and gave it to the princess.
However, the tradition of gifting books was born in 1923 to honor the works of Miguel de Cervantes, Garcilaso de la Vega and William Shakespeare, all famous authors who died on the 23rd of April. Founded in 1995, UNESCO’s international World Book Day has its origins in this Catalan tradition! It accounts for an amazing 10 percent of Catalonia’s annual book sales.
On this particular day the streets and squares of Barcelona are filled with stalls, selling books and roses. Want to get the full experience? Head to Plaça Sant Jaume, Plaça de Catalunya or La Rambla. Even if you’re not planning on purchasing books or roses, it is worth taking a stroll through Barcelona’s streets, just to admire the picturesque decorations. Nearly every building bears the red and gold Catalan flag, while bakeries sell Sant Jordi bread, streaked with red Sobrassada sausage pâté. Red roses decorate the Palau de la Generalitat and many statues and paintings of Sant Jordi.
From 15:00 to 20:00, there are usually Sardana dancing performances in Plaça Sant Jaume which are definitely worth a visit. Sardana is a traditional Catalan folk dance in which men and women join together in a circle by holding hands and facing towards each other while dancing.
Moreover, there are only 3 days in the year in which the Ajuntament de Barcelona opens its doors to the public. The Diada de Sant Jordi is one of these three days. You will be able to take a stroll through town hall and see its interior. The public can visit the Ajuntament de Barcelona on this day until 20:00.
The celebration of Sant Jordi or Saint George’s Day is a sight to behold. Take a stroll, soak up the atmosphere and enjoy the day together with your loved ones like a proper Catalan style Valentine’s day.