April 23rd: the Catalan Valentine’s day
CATALONIA VOTES – Books and roses fill the streets of the country in a unique festivity to celebrate Saint George’s Day
Saint George (Sant Jordi in Catalan) has been the official patron saint of Catalonia since 1456 (together with the Virgin of Montserrat). The commemoration of his death on April 23rd, Saint George’s Day (Diada de Sant Jordi), represents one of the annual cultural highlights in Catalonia and for Catalan communities all over the world. It is the day when people take to the streets to buy books and roses which they give to lovers, friends and family. All of Catalonia becomes one big street festival – a sea of countless stalls selling books and roses, and thousands of people strolling the streets after work to enjoy the atmosphere.
Although he was originally a Roman soldier who died in 303 AD, legend has transformed Saint George into a dragon-slaying knight who saved a princess and gave her a rose. The fact is that Saint George’s Day has been the local equivalent of Valentine’s Day since medieval times when the first rose fairs were organised at the seat of the Government of Catalonia. More recently, since the 1920s and the 1990s respectively, April 23rd has been chosen as Spanish Book Day and the UNESCO World Book and Copyright Day. Publishing houses, bookshops and libraries align their yearly calendars with the Diada de Sant Jordi to launch new publications, and authors take to the streets to sign copies of their books or to take part in public readings. To get a better idea of the importance of this date, 40% of all the roses and half of Catalonia’s annual book sales are said to take place on this single day!
Tradition and celebrations have fused over the years, leading to exhibitions, concerts, cultural open days, conferences, and culinary highlights such as a special Saint George bread. The legend of the poor dragon is even a good excuse to run campaigns for people to donate blood! April 23rd is undoubtedly one of the busiest and most interesting festive days in Catalonia.
More information on Saint George’s Day here.