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Saint George’s day in Catalonia (Sant Jordi)

Saint George’s day in Catalonia


According to the legend, a long, long time ago, back in the Middle Ages, there was a town in Catalonia, called Montblanc where its inhabitants lived dismayed by the presence of a dragon. They lived so scared that, every year, to keep the dragon away from the town, two people were randomly chosen to be offered to the beast in order to satisfy its hunger. Unfortunately for the king, one of the years the chosen one was his daughter, the princess of the Kingdom. The king was not able to let his subjects down, thus he treated the princess in the same way as any other subject. The day that the princess was taken to the dragon, the king wave her good bye crying and thinking that he would never see his daughter again.


The princess was taken to the place where the dragon used to dwell and she was left there tied to a rock and abandoned to her fate. She stayed there waiting that the dragon arrived feeling fear, as she knew that she would die soon. Suddenly, she heard the dragon coming, getting closer little by little until it rushed up to devour her and appease its hunger. At that very moment, before the dragon could eat the princess, Sant Jordi, a knight mounted on a white horse holding a sword appeared suddenly from the clouds, confronted the dragon in a bloody battle and killed him to death. The knight dealt a mortal blow to the dragon’s chest with his sword making the beast bleed to death. The blood that fell all over the battlefield became immediately a field full of roses and Sant Jordi went to where the princess was, untied her gently, kissed her and gave her a rose as a sign of his love.


Moreover, the whole town celebrated the dragon’s death when they saw Sant Jordi coming with the princess on the horseback flying through the sky. It was the end of the siege after years of suffering. That is why, until now the Catalan people celebrate Sant Jordi’s day remembering the liberation from the dragon, the heroism of the saint and since then all men give to their beloved women a rose in signal of love.


Beyond the legend, the 23rd of April was declared the World Book of the Day since, coinciding on that day in 1616, two of the greatest writers of the universal literature, Miguel de Cervantes and William Shakespeare died. Because of this fact, some years later, there was established a new tradition: women would give to their couple a book as a signal of their love for them.  However, from the second half of the XXth century, women had tried to become equal in all senses. They even applied the rule of equanimity to this tradition so, it changed and that is why now they are given a rose and a book.


The 23rd of April, wherever you are all through the Catalan geography, you will find new and second hand book markets and roses sellers. If you buy a book you will find out that there is a ten percent discount applied to them on that day. The atmosphere is fantastic, especially in Barcelona, due to the dimension of the city and amount of book and rose sellers. There are areas where the book stalls are one next to the other. Traditionally the sellers are located in “Las Ramblas”, although it is very common to find them in other areas such as “Rambla Catalunya”.  There are also many free cultural activities and the Spanish media move to the city of Barcelona to broadcast on television what is happening there.


Despite of being a great day in Catalonia and symbol of the Catalan identity, Sant Jordi is not a bank holiday. Thus, each Catalan meet their partner after work to seek the book and the rose, which, by tradition, are a must purchase that day.


If you really want to see a lovely celebration, understand it and take part of it, come to Barcelona on the 23rd of April and you will merge in a celebration which is expanding more and more all over the world.


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