Forget St. Valentines Day, if you want give a token of appreciate to a special somebody in Catalonia the 23rd April is the day to do it.
In England we (possibly) know this as the day of our patron saint, George, and apart from a lousy Scout parade through a soggy town centre, it’s absolutely normal day. In Catalonia they share the same patron saint, known in Catalan as Sant Jordi, but it seems to have a much greater importance culturally.
Meet Catalans and you will find that Jordi is an incredibly popular name, whilst in England George has probably fallen out of fashion somewhat. Explore Barcelona and you will find emblems and statues of Sant Jordi dotted around everywhere. Whilst the day of Sant Jordi is a ‘working’ day, the streets are filled with people buying roses and books for loved ones.
The day of Sant Jordi is a fusion of legend and literature. In the Catalan version, when Jordi slayed the beastly dragon in Montblanc (near Tarragon) some of the dragon’s blood spilled on the ground. On that spot a rosebush grew and Jordi picked the most beautiful rose as a gift for the princess. Nothing says “I love you” like a dragon’s blood rose, don’t you know? You can’t buy that in El Corte Inglés!
And the books?
At the beginning of the 20th century booksellers from the Catalan guild, Gremi de Llibreters, wanted to commemorate the 23rd April as an important day in literature as Cervantes is said to died on this day and it is believed to be both the birthday and date of death for Shakespeare. The sale of books on this day became an annual tradition, so much that UNESCO declared it World Book and Copyright day in 1995.
What you can do to celebrate
Walk around the city, absorbing the atmosphere. Lots of happy faces!
Buy books or roses!
Meet Catalan authors signing books on Rambla Catalunya.
Taste the bread of Sant Jordi. Bread of sobrasada (a cured sausage meat) and cheese layers creating a Catalan flag colouring inside.
Visit the Barcelona Town Hall. It will hold a special open day for visitors from 10.00 – 22.00, Plaça St Jaume.
Recreate history and go to a medieval re-enactment of the legend of Sant Jordi.
Interpret your gifts. Apparently each rose colour means something different:
- Red – love, obviously!
- Yellow – friendship
- White – innocence
- Bright red – inner beauty
- Pink – happiness
- Orange – passion and desire
- Blue – who knows?!
And if any of you are feeling generous, I’d quite to like to have a read of Daniel Brühl’s Un día en Barcelona. ;D