Sant Jordi

The 23rd of April is one of my favourite days of the year. You might wonder why this day? Easy, it is the Diada de Sant Jordi. Sant Jordi is the Catalan for St George, the patron saint of Catalonia, the region of Spain where I have lived all my life. The Diada de Sant Jordi has two star elements: culture and love, represented by books and roses, and its main meeting point in Barcelona is along the Ramblas, which you will find packed from end to end with book and flower stalls.

Today is so special because: one, it is our own version of St Valentine's, usually men give women a rose and women give men a book to express their love; and two, today is also our day as Catalans, we are proud of our little nation and express it by hanging our flag in every balcony and promoting our culture and language around the world. This is why I have decided to share this special day with all of you with some pictures of Barcelona (taken this morning) and talking about how I live this day every year.

My Sant Jordi

When you I was a kid, Sant Jordi was so fun! I went to school but there were no lessons, instead we spent the morning creating stories, painting or drawing comics about this topic and in the afternoon we used to bring books to school and exchange them for other ones with the kids of the whole school. Then, the following Saturday, there was a festival in the school so parents could come and see us sing or act. I loved it! Moreover, every year I would get a rose from my dad and a book from my mum. I loved going to the castle of our town where there were lots of stalls with books and I could choose the book that I wanted. 

When I got older, I used to go to Barcelona with my friends to enjoy the atmosphere of this day in the big city. And now I can't resist having a walk every year around the Ramblas! It is amazing. Everywhere is packed with stalls of books and roses, with people walking, talking, buying... And also you get to see so many Catalan and Spanish (and some international) authors because they usually sign books in the main streets. I remember a year that I saw Jorge Bucay (My mum's favourite author) and got a book for her that he signed! She was so happy when I gave it to her!

Book Stalls and Roses in Rambla Catalunya.

The Legend of Sant Jordi

But where does it all come from? The popular legend of St George we know today comes from 13th century. There are a lot of versions of this legend, but I'm going to tell you the one I know by heart: a dragon is besieging a village in Catalonia called Montblanc, forcing its population to feed it with their livestock until that runs out, at which point they have to satisfy the beast with their young maidens. A draw is held and the king's only daughter picks the short straw: she will be the dragon's next meal. Needless to say, the king doesn't want to see her gobbled up by the beast, so he issues an appeal, saying the man who slays the dragon will get the princess's hand. At this point a handsome knight appears, aca Sant Jordi. The fight commences and with one sweep of his sword he slits the dragon's throat. Once the dragon is slain, the drops of blood that fall to the ground turn into a rose bush that flowers in abundance. The knight picks the most beautiful rose of all and presents it to the princess before he disappears.

And from the blood of the monster, some beautiful roses flourished...

So here is the explanation of why men give women a rose as a sign of his love. But then why do women give men a book? The 23rd of April is also the day of the books. Around seventy years ago, a Spanish author from Valencia decided to create this day to promote books and reading and he picked the 23rd of April because it was the day that the greatest Spanish author died, Miguel de Cervantes who wrote El Quijote. This day became a success and soon both traditions got mixed in Catalonia (in the rest of Spain they only celebrate the day of the books, no roses). As a matter of fact, 23rd of April was such a success that the year 1995, UNESCO decided that the World Book and Copyright Day would be celebrated on this date. The date is also the anniversary of the birth and death of William Shakespeare, the death of Miguel de Cervantes, Inca Garcilaso de la Vega and Josep Pla, and the birth of Maurice Druon, Manuel Mejía Vallejo and Halldór Laxness.

This year I got my boyfriend a book signed by the author. I hope he likes it! I can't wait to get my rose later today. But in the meanwhile I got myself a copy of Nolito by Ben Brooks, who was also enjoying the atmosphere of Barcelona this morning:

Me and Quim Masferrer author of El Foraster (for my boyfriend) 

This morning I ran into Ben Brooks and decided to buy his book Lolito. 

You Might Also Like

0 comentaris