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Wednesday, April 25, 2012 (read 398 times)
 

Fiesta en Barcelona: Sant Jordi (Saint George’s Day)

by Kimberly

La diada de Sant Jordi (Saint George’s Day) is celebrated every April 23rd in the region of Catalonia, Spain with the exchange of books and roses.

Saint George was a Roman soldier who is known for his role in the tale of Saint George and the Dragon and as being one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers. He has become one of the most venerated saints in the Catholic religion.  Saint George’s Day is celebrated every April 23rd, the date of his death, in many different countries and regions across the world where he is the local patron saint.

In Spain, Saint George is associated to several different areas and cities. In Aragon this is especially true since 1096 during the Battle of Alcoraz when King Peter I of Aragon defeated Al-Musta'in II forces during the Reconquista. Legend holds that Saint George appeared above the crown of Aragon in support of his efforts.

In many regions, Saint George’s Day is celebrated with traditional feasts and sometimes other events such as parades. However, in Catalonia La diada de Sant Jordi is celebrated with a special twist.

Much like Valentine’s Day, La Diada de Sant Jordi is celebrated in the city of Barcelona with the exchange of gifts. Here, Saint George’s Day is also often referred to as El día de la rosa (The day of the rose) or El día del libro (The day of the book).

On La Diada de Sant Jordi, loved ones, friends and colleagues exchange roses and books. Traditionally it was the men who gave flowers to the women but today, the mutual exchange of flowers is common.  

Roses have been associated with Saint George’s Day since medieval times but the tradition of exchanging books is more recent. This unique twist became popular in 1923 when a local bookseller promoted the fact that April 23rd is also the day in which two extremely important literary figures died: Miguel de Cervantes and William Shakespeare. From this day forward Barcelona welcomed La Diada de Sant Jordi as a day to celebrate both love and literacy.

Las Ramblas, the most famous avenue in Barcelona, is filled with bookshops and flower stalls to mark the celebration of Saint George’s Day. Thousands of venders make the event a yearly success, with more than 4 million roses and 800,000 books sold.  In fact, so many people purchase books on La Diada de Sant Jordi that this day accounts for nearly half of the year’s book sales in the region!

Apart from books and roses, visitors can enjoy La Diada de Sant Jordi with a wide variety of other events. Dancers fill the streets, authors host reading events, street performers and musicians entertain passersby, and much more.

Visitors to Barcelona on La Diada de Sant Jordi can also take advantage of a unique opportunity to visit the Palau de la Generalitat, Barcelona’s main government building.  The building is usually closed to the public but opens to the public exclusively every April 23 to show off its rose-decorated interior in honor of Saint George.

The success of La Diada de Sant Jordi in Barcelona has been so much that, in 1994, UNESCO declared April 23rd as World Book and Copyright Day.


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Posted In: Spain, Tourism, Culture

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