Books, roses and culture on the Day of Saint George in Spain

by Lorraine Williamson
Saint George

MADRID – On April 23, Spain celebrates the Day of the Book and Saint George, a traditional holiday that is mainly celebrated in Catalonia. One of the most notable traditions is giving roses and books to loved ones and friends. But what is the story behind this tradition? 

The Day of Saint George (San Jordi) is a very popular and traditional holiday that combines love, culture and literature. Men often give a rose to their loved ones, while women give a book. This is because April 23 is also World Book Day, honouring the date of death of two great writers: Miguel de Cervantes and William Shakespeare. 

In Barcelona, the festival is celebrated in the streets and squares of the city, where stalls are set up to sell books and roses. In addition, literary and cultural activities are often organised, such as public book readings, dance and music performances, plays, poetry readings and workshops. 

The Legend of Saint George and the Dragon 

According to an old legend, Saint George saved a princess from a ferocious dragon. From the blood of the slain dragon grew a beautiful rose, which Saint George gave to the princess as a token of his love and admiration. From that moment on, the rose became the symbol of love and respect between men and women. In commemoration of this legend, theatrical performances and parades are held through the streets of the cities. 

Also read: Fiestas, Ferias and Celebrations in Spain 2023

World Book Day 

World Book Day in Spain is also a day to highlight the importance of reading and literature in society. It’s a day to reflect on the power of words and celebrate what they can mean to people of all ages and backgrounds. 

Spain top ten books 

El Español gives an overview of the ten most sold books in Spain in March for those who need inspiration when buying a book: 

  • “Sidi” by Arturo Perez-Reverte 
  • “Reina Roja” by Juan Gomez-Jurado 
  • “La Octava Vida (para Brilka)” by Nino Haratischwili 
  • “La chica de nieve” by Javier Castillo 
  • “La canción de Aquiles” by Madeline Miller 
  • “La buena suerte” by Rosa Montero 
  • “Cuentos de buenas noches para niñas rebeldes” by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo 
  • “La hija de Vercingétorix” by Jean-Yves Ferri and Didier Conrad 
  • “Los cuatro vientos” by Kristin Hannah 
  • “El infinito en un junco” by Irene Vallejo 

These books are all well-received by readers in Spain. Many of these books have also been translated into other languages and are internationally successful. There is a lot of fiction in between, including historical fiction and literary novels, but also non-fiction books such as “El Infinito en un junco” by Irene Vallejo.  

This book tells the history of books and libraries, from the beginning of written language to modern times. The reader discovers the ways in which books and libraries have shaped human history, including the dissemination of knowledge, ideas and culture. In English, the book is published under the title ‘Papyrus, The Invention of Books in the Ancient World’ (Hodder & Stoughton, 2021). 

Language Day in Catalonia 

A fact that many people don’t know about the Day of Saint George in Spain is that it is also the Day of the Language in Catalonia. This is because Saint George is the patron saint of the Catalan language. In Catalonia, this day is seen as an opportunity to celebrate and promote the Catalan language and culture. It is a day when people come together to enjoy activities and events that highlight the language and culture of Catalonia. 

Related post: Why are December 6 and 8 public holidays in Spain? 

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