On the 23rd of April the whole of Catalonia celebrates love and our love of books. Sant Jordi is exactly how Valentine’s Day should be done. Keeping it simple but romantic with the gift of a rose and adding the world’s love of literature by giving a good book.
Today, Sant Jordi Day is dedicated to love and books but it started out as a dedication to the patron saint, Saint George. There’s a lot of mystery and legends surrounding Saint George and many other countries have also named him as their patron saint including England.
One of his most famous legends is how he defeated a dragon and freed a princess. It is thought that the lover’s day came from the 15th century when a large rose market took place around the Generalitat de Catalunya (government palace) and Sant Jordi became known as the patron saint of lovers in the region.
It wasn’t until much later when the addition of books was introduced to Sant Jordi day. During the 1920’s a book festival was held and at the International Exhibition in 1929 in Barcelona, book stalls were set up along the streets to promote reading, which turned out to be very popular.
The date of 23rd April was then established as Book Day to coincide with the death of the great writer Cervantes and in 1995, UNESCO also declared it World Book Day.
What to expect on Sant Jordi Day
So now you know what it’s all about, what should you expect on the actual day?
Book signings take place all over and you’ll find rose stalls dotted throughout on street corners raising money for charity. Apparently in Barcelona it is estimated that 40% of all roses sold in a year are sold on this single day. That’s a lot of roses for just one day!
The place to be is the city centre. In Barcelona head to the Ramblas de Catalunya. You may think it’s pretty busy on the average Saturday, but just wait until you see it during Sant Jordi! Crowds pack out the mile long street lined with book stalls speckled with flower sellers in between.
In Girona, the Rambla de la Libertad and Plaça de Catalunya are taken over by books and roses, and buildings are adorned with senyeres (the Catalan flag).
What’s on Sant Jordi Day 2017
As on other festival days, certain buildings and museums across Catalonia that aren’t usually open at other times of the year are open for free to the public. In Barcelona these include the Palau de la Generalitat (government palace), Palau Guell, the National Library of Catalonia and Hospital de Sant Pau. In Tarragona, the Archaeological Museum and the Roman Villa of Els Munts in Altafulla are open.
BCN Film Fest
This year, a new international film festival in Barcelona, BCN Film Fest will be taking place from the 21st to 28th April at Cinemes Verdi. The film Norman featuring Richard Gere will open the festival which will be the film’s first showing in Spain.
According to the Catalan writer Joan Amades, it is in the village of Montblanc, about 37km from Tarragona, where St. George famously killed the dragon. Montblanc holds a week long medieval festival with different cultural activities, a medieval tournament and the whole village is covered in medieval decorations.
Have you ever been to Catalonia on Sant Jordi Day before? Have any questions about it? Or perhaps you have some tips you’d like to share! Let me know and comment below!
Feliç Diada de Sant Jordi!