It’s getting close to that time of the year again! My favorite day in Barcelona. Better than birthdays. Better than Christmas! It’s almost April 23rd, which means it’s almost time for the celebration of Saint George, or, Sant Jordi here in Catalonia. The patron saint of all of Catalonia will be celebrated this Tuesday, as every year, with one of the biggest celebrations of the year. The 2019 calendar has put Saint George’s Day right after Easter, but that does not mean it will be any less impressive. Every year millions make it into the streets to buy the roses and books for sale, and while it is not an official bank holiday, it appears to be. If the holiday falls on a weekend, it is a whole other story, but keep in mind the city will be sprawling with people out to celebrate, with stalls placed all over the city. Books and roses will be all over the city, packing important places like the Plaça de Sant Jaume, Passeig de Gracia, and Las Ramblas. Authors from all over make their way to Barcelona, some every year, to take part in the signings and promotions of their newest works. Some books are even published with the day of Sant Jordi in mind. It really is a special time in the city where everyone gets involved in the act. If you have never experienced a Sant Jordi Day before you might be wondering where this all comes from.
What is el Día de Sant Jordi?
Basically, it’s Valentine’s Day with a twist. This is lover’s day here in Catalunya and on this day the ladies receive a rose while the fellas receive a book. All of this has to do with the legend of Saint George, which becomes Jorge in Spanish and Jordi in Catalan.
It is legend that in Montblanc, Tarragona (to the south of Barcelona) there was a dragon terrifying the town. When the dragon unsatisfiable appetite couldn’t be with the farm animals, the princess was taken. About to be devoured by the horrifying beast, she is saved, as Saint George gallantly appears riding his noble stead striking the dragon with his lance. Out of the dragon’s blood appears a rose, which Saint George presents to the princess. It is from this legend that on every April 23rd it is customary for the ladies to receive a rose.
The books come into play for a different reason. William Shakespeare and Miguel de Cervantes, arguably the two most famous authors in their respective languages, both died on April 23rd, 1616. This amazing coincidence has lead to the creation of World Book Day.
I never like to take anything away from this amazing day, but England and Spain were on different calendars in 1616, making their April 23rd’s about 12 days apart…
Together with the legend of Saint George, Barcelona becomes an incredible sight. The whole city gets into the act; the Casa Batlló by Gaudí puts on its best dress, with roses decorating the balconies (the perfect attire for the façade that tells of the legend of Saint George each and everyday. This year, with the restoration project, we won’t be able to enjoy the beauty of the roses, so here is a picture from last year.
What can I do while I am here?
Take in the atmosphere. Some of the most important places will be Las Ramblas, Plaça Sant Jaume, and Passeig de Gràcia. These are also the places to avoid if you want to relax. Books and roses will be everywhere, as well as thousands of people looking for the best ones for their partners.
See the Sardanas. A traditional catalan dance, usually done outside of the cathedral Sunday monrings, will be performed starting at 19:00 in Plaça Sant Jaume.
Visit the Barcelona City Hall. The Ajuntament in the center of Plaça Sant Jaume will be holding its annual Open Door Event from 10:00 until 20:00. This is a chance that doesn’t come along too often to see an incredible building that dates back to the 1396 with the Consell de Cent (the Council of 100), Barcelona’s original city council.
Meet one of over 300 authors signing books. As every year, many authors from around the world make their way to Barcelona for book singings all around the city in various books stores and pop up stands. Yes, most will be Catalan or Spanish language authors but there are always english language authors about too!
There is also a film festival going on at the Verdi Cinemas in Gracia all week and blood drives at some local libraries for those who want to give.
What book/s should I get?
If you want to take part in the festivities and get yourself or a loved one a book during the day you will have more than your fair share to choose form. I always think book set in Barcelona makes a great gift. Here are some of my favorites so you can take a piece of Barcelona home with you:
Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
A young boy finds a book and desperately wants to read more by the mysterious author, Julian Carax, only to find he has the last copy in existence. His search to find out more leads him all around the city, showing you Barcleona as you’ve never seen it before. My personal favorite, and the first of a four part series.
Origen by Dan Brown
Always a good quick read, and this one takes place in Barcelona! The Casa Milà and Sagrada Familia by Gaudí making appearances. If you like The DaVinci Code, check out what Dan Brown could do with Barcleona!
Cathedral of the Sea by Ildefonso Falcones
Recently made into a Netflix mini series, stay on the couch but instead of your computer, grab the book. If like me, you have been enchanted by Santa Maria del Mar in the the Born district, this book is for you.
I will be posting pictures and stories during the day over on my instagram account: @patrickguidebarcelona So go check it out to see how the day was!