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Catalan Tradition: Roses and Books on Sant Jordi

Thousands of people in Catalonia bought books and roses last Saturday on the occasion of the patron saint Sant Jordi. La Diada de Sant Jordi, on April 23, is a special holiday in Catalonia. Not only is it the day of the region’s patron saint, but also the day of love and culture. In short, Sant Jordi is a special day full of traditions in Catalonia. But where does this tradition come from and how is it celebrated nowadays? I’ll tell you exactly that in this post.

What Do We Celebrate During Sant Jordi?

Sant Jordi, known as the lovers’ day in Catalonia, has been celebrated as a festive occasion since 1456. However, the tradition of exchanging roses and books truly began in 1914.

The story of the rose comes from a romantic legend. According to the legend, a dragon lived on Montblanc, a municipality near Tarragona, terrorizing the population. To ensure the dragon didn’t consume everything, it was decided that each day someone from the village had to be eaten.

One day, it was the King’s daughter’s turn. However, this did not happen because the knight Sant Jordi, on his white horse, came to her rescue. Sant Jordi killed the dragon and from its blood, a rosebush grew. The knight gave a rose to the princess, and thus the tradition began where women receive red roses from those who love them.

But April 23 is not only known for Sant Jordi. It is also the death day of two great writers, Cervantes and Shakespeare. Therefore, since 1930, the National Book Day has been organized on April 23, and men, in return for the rose, receive a book from the women.

Sant Jordi and the Dragon
Sant Jordi and the Dragon

Tip: Did you know that you can visit the village of Montblanc, where the legend of the knight Jordi and the dragon takes place?

What Happens During Sant Jordi?

During Sant Jordi (Saint George’s Day) on April 23rd, it’s customary for men to present their loved ones with a rose, while women often surprise their partners with a book.

Barcelona transforms into a bustling book market, adorned with numerous book stalls. Enthusiasts can engage with authors, obtaining signed copies of their favorite works.

For publishers and bookstores alike, Sant Jordi ranks among the most significant days of the year, rivaled only by the Madrid Book Fair and the Christmas season.

The most visited book stalls are located in Las Ramblas and Passeig de Gràcia, and on a day like Sant Jordi, it is definitely worth going there.

Roses are also sold everywhere. It’s then hard to see a woman without a rose or a man without a book.

Sant Jordi: Catalan celebration of books and roses
Sant Jordi: Catalan celebration of books and roses

How is Sant Jordi celebrated in Barcelona?

Despite not being an official holiday, Sant Jordi is celebrated on a grand scale in Barcelona. Everyone takes to the streets in search of a rose or a book for their loved one. You’ll see families and romantic couples strolling through the streets, creating a festive atmosphere everywhere.

To make April 23rd even more enjoyable, various events are held throughout the city, ranging from museum open days to street markets and music festivals.

If you’re in Barcelona with your loved one during Sant Jordi, you absolutely must buy a rose or a book to fully immerse yourself in the festivities.

Stalls selling roses for Sant Jordi in Barcelona
Stalls selling roses for Sant Jordi in Barcelona
Stalls selling books for Sant Jordi in Barcelona
Stalls selling books for Sant Jordi in Barcelona

If you want to know more about the most exciting events during Sant Jordi and what’s happening in the city, then keep reading here.

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Hello! My name is Marta, and I am a born and raised Barcelonian. I love introducing people to Barcelona, especially the Barcelona known to locals. In Barcelona, I am always looking for fun places and tips that I can then share with you, with the goal of helping you experience Barcelona like a local.

Marta Rubio

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