Today is the Catalan Saint Valentine

Today is the Catalan Saint Valentine


santjordi

Today is the Catalan Saint Valentine which is called Sant Jordi’s day. It’s 23rd of April and on a special romantic day like today you can find in every street corner of Barcelona temporary stands where they sell books and roses. Of course rest of the Catalonia is the same, full of stands with roses and books.

The tradition is that a guy has to give to a girl a rose and girl to a guy a book. This is something quite confusing to me as a foreigner (though been living in Barcelona for 11 years now) that why do a girl give to a guy a book. Does this mean to say “Here’s a book, now leave me alone. I have a headache!“. I completely understand the idea of making a rose as a present to the girl but a book sounds weird.

sant-jordi (1)

OK, here’s the actual reason why this habit. From the middle of XV century on the 23rd of April in all Catalonia they celebrate the Diada de Sant Jordi (Sant Jorge). Sant Jordi is the patron of Catalonia since 1094 and for the Catalans is the protective hero who killed the dragon and saved the princess. This symbolized the good winning over the bad.

It’s considered as a pacific and emotional celebration where two persons in love exchange a rose and a book. It’s a popular celebration that praises human values such as love, culture and patriotism.

Bookstalls-Barcelona, SantJordi

The roses and books that will be given on that day decorate all the streets, squares and corners of every Catalan city and village. It’s a unique day in the world that Catalans celebrate that festivity by working.

By excellence Sant Jordi is the patron of in love in Catalonia, taking away, in that sense, the whole meaning of San Valentine. Though many Catalans celebrate the 23rd of April as well as 14th of February. Almost everybody who lives here follows the tradition of a man giving a woman one single red rose with a wheat spike and a woman to her loved one gives a book.

sant-jordi

Why one single red rose with a wheat spike and not any other flower?

sant-jordi-barcelona-2

As per tradition,  this gift unites three characteristics: one single flowers, symbolizes the exclusivity of the love, the red colour of the rose, symbolizes the passion, and the wheat spike symbolizes fertility. This is the reason why it is such a perfect present on a special day like this.

To this ancient tradition adds up that in 1995 UNESCO declared that the 23rd of April is the World Book Day.

The legend of Sant Jordi and the dragon is common in Europe, and countries like England, Portugal or Greece have accepted it. In Catalonia in Montblanc they celebrate the Setmana Medieval de Montblanc (Montblanc Medieval Week). In there, beside other activities, the represent how the saint killed the dragon that had the capital of Conca de Barberà terrorised. At the ancient walls of the city there is still a doorway which is called Portal de Sant Jordi (Sant Jordi’s doorway) through what, they say, came the knight after killing the beast.

SantJordi

As a last thing, Sant Jordi also states the beginning of spring. This is a perfect reason to go out, walk around and enjoy the weather. By the way, today the weather is just amazing, sunny and warm (around +20ºC). Beside the rose and book, Sant Jordi turns into a popular celebration which combines other activities like sardanas (a type of circle dance which is typical in Catalonia, Spain), castells (the human towers, another big tradition of the area), expositions and many other which makes that the holiday would be even a bigger holiday. 

Meelis Paloson

Meelis Paloson

Founder at Meanwhiler.me
I'm the Founder of Meanwhiler.me. Originally I'm from a tiny country called Estonia but I have been living in Barcelona, Spain since summer 2004.

I'm passionate about social media, new technologies, gadgets, business development, healthy cooking, fitness, music and travel. I like spending time walking around and getting inspiration.
Meelis Paloson

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