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Catalan Tradition: Roses and Books on Sant Jordi

Thousands of people in Catalonia last Saturday bought books and roses for the feast of the patron saint Sant Jordi. La Diada de Sant Jordi, on April 23, is a special holiday in Catalonia. It’s not only the day of the region’s patron saint but also the day of the rose as a symbol of love and the day of the book as a symbol of culture. A very popular tradition with a long history full of legends.

What Do We Celebrate During Sant Jordi?

Sant Jordi is the lovers’ day in Catalonia. Since 1456, this special day has been an official holiday in Catalonia, but the tradition of roses and books really started 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

What Happens During Sant Jordi?

During Sant Jordi (Saint George’s Day), it’s a tradition for men to give their loved ones a rose and women to surprise their partners with a book.

On April 23, Barcelona turns into a large book market with many book stalls. Book lovers can also meet authors and have their books signed. For publishers and bookstores, Sant Jordi is one of the most important days of the year, alongside the Madrid Book Fair and the Christmas period. Roses are sold everywhere. It’s then hard to see a woman without a rose or a man without a book.

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.

Casa Batlló during Sant Jordi
Casa Batlló during Sant Jordi

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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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