On April 23rd, Barcelonans celebrate Saint George’s day, the story of this celebration is really interesting.. Let's discover more!
Barcelona is one of the most beautiful cities in Spain. Perhaps, it is one of the most beautiful ever. You should not miss the chance to go there someday, somehow. By the way, if you fancy going there soon, maybe you should hurry up because in a few days something really nice is going to happen there. On April 23rd, Barcelonans celebrate Saint George’s day.
So, we have got Spain and celebrations here. Sounds interesting, doesn’t it? Let’s see what this is about.
Saint George (Sant Jordi in Spanish, we like to be multilingual here) is the patron of Catalonia.
The story of this celebration is really interesting, as its origins are lost between reality and fantasy. The legend is about the old Libyan city of Salem, whose population was terrified by a dragon hiding in a huge pond. It used to kill all the people it bumped into by firing them up through its breath. In order to calm his temper, the locals offered it two sheep everyday. When the sheep began to run low, they were forced to draw lots to find people to be sacrificed to the dragon. One day, Silene was drawn. She was the king’s firstborn and he desperately tried to save her, but in vain. At the very moment when the dragon was about to get her, the young knight George went by the pond. He showed no fear and pierced the monster with his lance. He later stated that God himself had sent him to save the inhabitants of Salem. The king and all his people converted and the knight was made Saint.
Obviously, it is not all about folklore. In fact, Saint George’s Day comes from a mix of different traditions from different ages. One of these is the medieval habit to go and visit Saint George’s chapel within Palau de la Generalitat, a famous palace in Barcelona, where people used to organize roses or “lovers” festivals. This is why in Catalonia Sant Jordi is also the lovers’ patron. You should take advantage of this opportunity to visit the palace, since it organizes an open doors day full of activities to celebrate this event. We mention a few to raise your curiosity. The gallery on the noble floor is full of stands selling roses whose proceeds are given to charity. Within Sant Jordi’s chapel there is an official Mass, while the blessing of the roses takes place in the gothic courtyard. Last but not least, a popular music concert is also scheduled inside.
Since the 15th century, on Saint George's Day, Catalan people celebrate lovers as well as friends, parents, sons, and daughters. They simply celebrate love in all its shapes. This is so romantic, so passionate… So Spanish, in short. This celebration is very popular and Catalans are very proud of the strong value of cultural identity it carries. The super crowded Ramblas are full of books and flowers stands. In fact, the tradition wants men to give flowers to women and women to give books to men as a present. Of course, there are no rules about that. If you are a girl and your boyfriend likes flowers, feel free to buy him some roses. On the contrary, if you are a boy and your sister is allergic to flowers, there is no need to intoxicate her. The tradition is quite flexible.
April 23rd is a very busy day in Barcelona. It is also el Día del Libro (The Book Day, in English). Even if it takes place in the same day as Saint George’s Day, it has completely different roots. It comes from the idea of a Spanish writer and editor, Vicent Clavel Andrés, who asked the government to introduce it on October 7th to commemorate Miguel de Cervantes’ birth. It was later shifted to April 23rd, the day Cervantes died. The author had always loved Barcelona, as witnessed by how highly he speaks of it in his Don Quixote. In 1995, UNESCO made it the World Book and Copyright Day and almost 80 countries all around the world celebrate it every year.
In Barcelona, this day is very heartfelt. There are events, readings and presentations all day long. Stands and markets are almost everywhere up and down the city. You will find the majority of them through the main squares and streets. The best place to go is surely the Rambla, which is the very core of the celebration in the entire Catalonia. The avenue to the harbor is covered with books and flowers since early morning. People go out for a walk or to exchange their gifts. Those who are fond of books, should not miss the unique chance to meet their favorite authors, signing copies of their books surrounded by the gorgeous atmosphere of the Rambla. Unfortunately, it all may become a little crowded at some point. So, especially in the peak hours, it could be better for you to go and visit other places around the city. Just for instance, think about Plaça Sant Jaume or Plaza Catalunya. They are equally nice to see and you will have no problems in reaching them, but at least you will not get mad walking through them.
Saint George’s day is legend and history, emotion and reality, culture and romanticism all at the same time. Are you ready to be shaken by this whirlwind of feelings? Book your trip straight away! Saint George’s day is just once a year and, you know, time flies..