22 Apr, 2024 @ 11:54
1 min read

What is Dia de Sant Jordi? How the Catalunya region in Spain will celebrate its patron saint this week – from traditional gifts to street parties

La Rambla will be among the streets filled with traditional book stalls, flower shops and cultural events
April 23, 2023, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain: Tens of Thousands fill Barcelona's 'Rambla' as the city turns into a huge outdoor bookstore, flooded with stands of books offering the latest works on Saint George's Day, also known as the 'Day of the book' in Catalonia. (Credit Image: © Matthias Oesterle/ZUMA Press Wire)

DIA de Sant Jordi – or St George’s Day – will see some of Barcelona’s most famous streets packed with bookstores and florists this Tuesday as Catalunya comes together to celebrate the feast of its patron saint.

Balconies across the city will be adorned with the Catalan flag – or Senyera – for a celebration widely considered as one of the most important days in the regional calendar.

The Catalan version of the legend Sant Jordi says that after the brave knight famously slayed the dragon, a rosebush grew from the beast’s blood after it slumped to the ground. Sant Jordi then gave a princess one of the roses that spilled out of the dragon’s body. 

In 1929, a group of booksellers in Barcelona decided to head to the city’s famous thoroughfares to set up stands to promote their material.

Streets such as La Rambla will sell traditional gifts, such as roses. Credit: Cordon Press

The day they chose – April 23 – became World Book Day as it coincided with the death of two of the great icons of literature: Cervantes and William Shakespeare.

Tradition therefore dictates that on Dia de Sant Jordi, regarded as the main day for couples in a region that does not celebrate Valentine’s Day, women receive a rose whilst men receive a book in a celebration of love and literature.

In the modern era, the gender roles are interchangeable although the premise of gift-giving remains.

On Tuesday April 23, Barcelona, the capital of Catalunya, will be home to over 430 stands selling books and roses.

The iconic La Rambla, Passeig de Gracia and Passeig de Lluís Companys will all be filled with stalls selling a diverse range of books, with a particular focus on those written in Catalan. 

Flower shops will also hope to cash in on the celebrations with over seven million roses set to be sold – a third of annual sales. 

The day is also a celebration of literature, coinciding with the date of the deaths of Cervantes and Shakespeare. Credit: Cordon Press

The Sagrada Familia will celebrate the day with a digital art projection created by AI called ‘Rose, Rosae’, whilst anyone with the name Jordi, George or equivalent will be allowed free entry inside the iconic basilica. 

Catalunya’s main government building, the Palau de la Generalitat, will also open to the public for the first time this year.

Aside from the bustling flower and book stalls, there will be poetry readings, workshops, recitings, traditional dances, street parties, music, kids activities and castells, the half-impressive, half-frightening human towers that are unique to Catalan culture.

Although Barcelona’s wide streets will be the focal point for the day’s celebrations, activities will also take place in Girona, Tarragona, Lleida, Badalona, Calonge i Sant Antoni and Vic. 

Further afield, there are at least 325 Sant Jordi events planned in 192 cities across the world, stretching from Edinburgh to Buenos Aires.

Ben Pawlowski

Ben joined the Olive Press in January 2024 after a four-month stint teaching English in Paraguay. He loves the adrenaline rush of a breaking news story and the tireless work required to uncover an eye-opening exclusive. He is currently based in Barcelona from where he covers the city, the wider Catalunya region, and the north of Spain. Send tips to [email protected]

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