Sant Jordi is the patron saint of Catalonia and today we celebrate Dia de Sant Jordi, an important festival for the Catalans. It is considered a day of promotion and reservation of Catalan culture and language. That is why you see the senyara, the Catalan flag, in the streets and on balconies.
Book & Rose
The festival is all about culture and love, represented by the book and the rose. It is celebrated all over Catalunya. You will find booksellers and florists on the boulevards of the sea resorts, the Rambla in Barcelona and ramblas or main streets in other cities.
Who was Sant Jordi?
Dia de Sant Jordi is on the day which the knight Jordi died. The saint, who was under the orders of the emperor Diocletian, refused to follow the order to persecute the Christians, for which he was martyred and beheaded. Very soon fantastic stories related to his figure appeared and since 1456 he is the official patron of Catalunya.
Although the festival was celebrated since the 16th century, it was at the end of the 19th century, with the political and cultural movement of the Renaissance, when Sant Jordi was established as the most celebrated patriotic, civic and cultural festival.
Why the book & rose?
In the 15th century, a rose fair was already organized in Barcelona during Sant Jordi. Young couples, fiancées and married couples attended mainly. This suggests that the custom of giving a rose has its origin from this fair.
For the origin of the book we have to go to the twenties of the last century, when the Valencian writer Vicent Clavel i Andrés, director of the Cervantes publishing house, proposed to organize a party to promote books in Catalonia. The date chosen was October 7, 1927. In 1929, during the International Exhibition of Barcelona, the booksellers decided to go out to set up beach bars to present novelties and encourage reading. The initiative was so successful that it was decided to change the date to 23 April; a day that coincides with the death of two great authors in the history of literature: Cervantes and Shakespeare.
Right from the beginning, the festival contributed to give a strong boost to Catalan publishing production and still is. And the significance of the Catalan holiday has been so great that UNESCO declared April 23 World Book Day.
The legend of Sant Jordi
There is also a legend. This legend says that there was a dragon living in Montblanc. Everybody was very angry with the dragon because he was eating all animals and the people got more and more hungry. But the tragedy started when the dragon finally ate all the animals and he had nothing left to eat. What did he do? He started to eat people…
The king was getting more and more desperate so he ordered the strongest men to kill the dragon. But the dragon was too strong for them and he had them for a meal. One day, the dragon chose the princess. At that moment San Jordi came to the town claiming that he was the guy who would defeat the dragon. He started the fight with the dragon and he finally could nail his sword into the dragon’s heart so the dragon died. And then, magic happened: from the pool of red thick blood coming from the dragon’s heart, a rose tree sprouted. Little by little, the tree drank the dragon’s blood and wonderful red roses appeared. Jordi took the biggest rose to give it to the princess.
This is why it is custom for men to give a red rose to women as a present, and women give a book to men to celebrate their love for each other.