Sant Jordi: Valentines day in Catalan

Neverending masses of people, winding through the streets of Barcelona. If you happen to be in the catalan capital on April 23rd you might wonder what is going on. Every two meters there is an improvised pop-up store made of a folding table and a beach parasol. There is no car in the center. On the pedestrian streets, such as Las Ramblas there is one book booth after another. In between entire families, just wondering around with the flow and browsing through the books.

Sant Jordi In Las Ramblas, Barcelona
Sant Jordi In Las Ramblas, Barcelona

This is Sant Jordi, the Catalan Valentines day and second most important national Holiday right after 11. of September, the independence day.

St. George the patron saint for several countries, amongst them England, Portugal and Georgia, is a Catholic saint. His festive day is in many of these countries a national celebration day, even though not a bank holiday. Same for some Spanish regions such as Catalonia, Aragona and Balearic Islands.

Legend has it, that a giant dragon was threatening the kingdom. To keep him from attacking the village, the community sacrifices each year one man or woman and a lamb. The victim was drawn by lot. One year the princess was unfortunate enough to be drawn here. With the lamb under her arm she walked to the dragon’s cave. But before she met the knight George, who instantly fell in love with her. He killed the dragon with his sword and from the blood of the dragon that fell on the earth grew a red rose.

To celebrate St. Georges day Catalan men give the women in their lives a red rose on April 23rd. While the rose represents passion, it is often given with a wheat straw, representing fertility. This tradition has already been seen in the 17th century.

Sant Jordi in Barcelona
St. Jordi in Barcelona

Since 1929 April 23rd, the anniversary of the death of both WilliamShakespeare and Miguel de Cervantes is also celebrated as the “International Book day”. Being pragmatic, the Catalans combined both so that traditionally women get a rose and men get a book. More emancipated couples give both, book and rose independently if women or men.

So due to this, every year, millions and millions of people come to Barcelona Center on April 23rd to buy their Sant Jordi gifts. More than 6 million roses are sold that day. Most of the imported by Holland as the national production can’t keep up with the demand.

Of course, on a national holiday, the catalan flag flies from several balconies in all of Barcelona, what make the atmosphere even more festive. Also pets seem to be showing their national pride that day and take out their independence collar to celebrate the day.

Sant Jordi in Barcelona
St. Jordi in Barcelona

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