Books and roses on Sant Jordi day in Catalonia and Aragon

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Sant Jordi day

It seems like a cross between a regional holiday, Valentine’s Day and book day: the Día de Sant Jordi, celebrated annually on April 23 in Catalonia and parts of the Aragon region. But what is it actually, this day around the saint we know as Saint George with the dragon?

April 23 is the day of Saint George. However, this date was introduced by UNESCO in 1995 to promote reading, the book sector and copyright. In Spain, April 23 has been all about books since 1923, because the famous Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes died on that day in 1616. William Shakespeare also died on April 23, 1616.

Also read: Twenty timeless Spanish books

Patron saint of Catalonia

Due to the coincidence of the above factors, books and roses now play the leading role on the Día de Sant Jordi, which is also the patron saint of Catalonia. He died on April 23, 303. On the day of Sant Jordi, people in Catalonia give each other books and roses.

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Those roses come from the legend, which in short goes as follows: A dragon once settled in a town near Tarragona. To keep that dragon calm, a resident was sacrificed to him every day. On the day it was the king’s daughter’s turn, Saint George appeared and managed to save the princess by killing the dragon. In the blood of the dragon grew a rose bush with red roses. Saint George picked the most beautiful rose and gave it to the princess. Kings in the then Spanish kingdom of Aragon venerated Saint George and asked him for help in their fight against the unbelievers.

This is how the tradition of giving your loved one a rose on this day came about. With the anniversary of Cervantes’ death and World Book Day combined, a book as a gift can also suffice. Or people give both.

Book and rose stalls

In Catalonia, the Día de Sant Jordi is not a day off. People use their lunch break to stroll past the many book and rose stalls in their city or village or do so after work. This year the day falls on Tuesday and will therefore be extremely busy, especially in already touristy Barcelona. Last year, no fewer than 2.8 million books were sold on Sant Jordi Day, with a turnover of €44 million. That was 15% more than in 2022. Furthermore, more than 6 million roses were sold. The majority of them in the Catalan capital.

Also read: La Mercé Barcelona: city festival in honor of its patron saint

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