SAINT GEORGE

In Catalonia, lovers’ day (the equivalent of St. Valentine’s Day) is celebrated on 23rd April and it is a day when people symbolically express their love by giving each other a rose or a book

The Sant Jordi legend. According to Catalan legend a terrible dragon was wreaking havoc among the animals and people of Montblanc. To try to contain it, they decided to draw lots to see which one of them would be fed to the beast. One fine day the king’s daughter drew the short straw and would have died at the hands of the dragon, had Jordi the knight not appeared to confront and slay it. Tradition adds that a bush of red roses sprouted from its spilled blood.

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Sant Jordi, or St. George, is the patron saint of Catalonia and the Diada de Sant Jordi, St George’s Day, is a festive occasion that, over the years, has become a celebration of Catalan culture. This is why many balconies in the city are decorated with the senyera, the Catalan flag, as they are on other key national dates. In fact, it is a celebration of culture and love, represented by books and roses. The main meeting point in Barcelona is the Rambla, which is packed from end to end with book and flower stalls.

On Sant Jordi’s day it is normal to find books in every language that talk about Catalonia but there are lots of stalls that specialise in books in Catalan, especiallly as this day is seen as a time for promoting and defending the Catalan language and culture.

History

During the International Exhibition held in Barcelona in 1929, booksellers decided to set up stalls in the streets, to present their new publications and encourage reading. The initiative was so successful they decided to change the date and establish 23rd April as Book Day, because that is the day when two of the great names in the history of literature died: Cervantes and Shakespeare.

From the very beginning this festive occasion has given a big boost to the output of Catalan publishers and that is still its essence today. But such has been the impact of Catalonia’s book day that, in 1995, UNESCO’s General Assembly declared 23rd April World Book and Copyright Day.

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