23rd of April: Day of Sant Jordi, of the book and the rose

Holidays and Traditions

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Sant Jordi's Day (Saint George) is somewhat like Valentine’s day in Catalonia. There is an ancient tradition of giving roses on this day, celebrating spring and love of which Saint George is it’s patron.

It is very difficult to set a date to establish the beginning of the popular Catalan tradition. It has to be a very ancient one, since there is evidence of the celebration of the Roses Fair on the occasion of Sant Jordi’s day since the 15th century. This very fact tries to explain the link existing between the popular tradition and the symbolism of courtly love represented by the rose. However, beyond, all possible theories that might justify a tradition, the most important thing is that it has remained alive, and that it is an unmistakable symbol of Catalonia.

In 1926 Spain established the 23rd of April as the Day of the Book because this date coincided with that of Cervantes’ death; this fact annoyed England, which already celebrated the very same day for being that of Shakespeare’s death.

The tradition calls for men to give women a rose. A book is also given since last century as well.

There is a great literary tradition in Catalonia, so many writers sign their books at famous bookshops as well as in the Ramblas of Barcelona. It’s a marvellous sight to see all the book and flower stands and the Ramblas packed with people who come out to take a stroll around the streets in Barcelona. Thousands of books and roses will be sold on Saint Jordi’s day.

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