This blog post was originally posted on April 20, 2015 and was updated on January 03, 2018.
Did you know that Catalonia has its very own version of Valentine’s Day? It involves saints, dragons, books, and roses.
April is a lovely month in Catalonia! However, that’s not just because the flowers are blooming. It’s spring, and it’s the month of Sant Jordi. One of the most anticipated days of the year for children, families, lovers and bookstores alike! If you’ve ever had the chance to experience Sant Jordi in Barcelona, you’ll know that we are not exaggerating when we say that it is one seriously special day.
The Legend of Sant Jordi
Sant Jordi (Saint George) tells the tale of a dragon terrorizing a small town, which in Catalonia’s case is a town called Montblanc. In an attempt to appease the hungry dragon (who, by the way, has eaten all their livestock by now), the inhabitants of Montblanc make the difficult decision to sacrifice different members of the town. Furthermore, they decided to do this by lottery.
Unfortunately, it was the princess that was chosen. As she bravely sets out to her fate, Saint George shows up and slays the fiery dragon with his sword. As the legend goes, a rose sprouted up out of the dragon’s blood. It was then that Saint George presented it to the princess, probably kneeling in a most chivalrous fashion! Hence the tradition of giving the gift of a rose on Sant Jordi.
And So Why the Books?
Coincidentally, the 23rd of April not only marks this Saint’s day but also the death of one of Spain’s great literary figures, Miguel Cervantes, in 1616. Leave it up to the clever Catalan booksellers of the 1920s to take note of this coincidence! They made it a day to recognize the great author and finally, all great literature.
World Book Day became an internationally recognized day just a few decades ago (William Shakespeare also died on this same day in 1616). However, Catalans have been commemorating Cervantes on the 23rd of April since the 1920s.
Celebrating Sant Jordi in Barcelona
Today, Sant Jordi is a day of love and literature, comparable to Valentine’s Day. Although, it is cooler because it involves books! The streets are filled with vendors selling roses, and bookstores throughout the city set up sidewalk stands for book signings and special discounts.
Dozens of authors take advantage of Sant Jordi to promote their work, and museums, government institutions, libraries, and schools hold different conferences and workshops relating to the world of literature. People usually leave work early to spend the afternoon on the streets of Barcelona.
Will you be in Catalonia on Sant Jordi?
Whether you’re in a small town or the capital, there will no doubt be a lot going on through Catalonia on this special day. In Barcelona, Plaza Catalunya, Rambla de Catalunya, and Passeig de Gracia are the most concentrated areas of celebration. Although if you’re not one for crowds don’t worry! You can still get plenty of Sant Jordi spirit by simply walking around any given part of the city. We kid you not, you will see roses everywhere. Enjoy it! You may also see the Castellers if you’re lucky performing around the city. Take a quick peek at some of their amazing talents!