Catalans always look forward to a very special date, especially when spring has started, and that’s 23 April. The day is called Sant Jordi.
Do you know why this day is of importance? This is not only Sant Jordi (or Saint George’s Day), but it also coincides with Internation Book Day. It is tradition for couples, friends or family members to give each other a red rose or a book as a token of their love.
Although it is customary to celebrate our love on 14 February in Spain (Valentine’s Day), Catalonia has always preferred the celebration on 23 April. This day is important and many activities are being organised.
The Day of Sant Jordi is one of the most exciting and popular celebrations in Barcelona. All throughout the day of the 23rd, the streets of Barcelona turn red, and they are filled with books and roses, but most of all there is a very fun and festive atmosphere.
Sant Jordi, however, is not just celebrated in Barcelona, because the entire region of Catalonia takes part in the festivities, with every municipality organising its own event or fair, with bookstalls and places to buy roses.
If you are renting an apartment in Barcelona on this day, be sure to read the full article to learn what Sant Jordi in Barcelona is all about.
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Why celebrate Sant Jordi?
Celebrating Sant Jordi on 23 April every year is tradition, and nobody wants to miss it. Sant Jordi (Barcelona’s patron Saint) is based on a remarkable legend that speaks of courage, love and honour. On this day we commemorate the knight and martyr George of Cappadocia, who died on 23 April 303.
The story takes place in the village of Montblanc (Tarragona), where a vicious dragon is terrorising the entire population in the area. The dragon has devoured all the animals living there and is a constant threat to the people of the village.
Once they started running out of animals, everyone living soul feared for their lives, and that’s when the king decided to come up with a solution to the problem.
He made the drastic, but effective decision to provide the dragon with one person from the village as food each day, and this person would be chosen randomly. By giving the dragon enough to eat, they hoped it would be satisfied and leave the village and its people alone.
The shock was immense when the first person that was chosen as a sacrifice for the dragon was the king’s own daughter! No one had expected this, and none of the villagers wanted the princess to be the first one to be fed to the dragon, as she was very beloved.
The king, however, stuck to his decision, and with much regret, he sent his daughter to the dragon’s cave to be his meal.
But then… a knight on a white and majestic stallion suddenly appeared at the horizon. His name was Jordi, and he came to save the princess and to prevent her from being sacrificed to the dragon.
The fearless knight fought heroically against the dragon, until, finally, he was able to pierce the dragon’s body with his sword and kill it. To thank the knight for saving his daughter’s life, the king offered him to marry the princess, but Jordi refused and just left.
Related article: Myths and Legends about Barcelona
Legend says that, shortly after the dragon had been killed, there was a rosebush with red roses that started to grow in the same place where the blood of the defeated dragon had poured out. Ever since that moment on, it is the tradition for lovers to give a red rose to their partner on 23 April, the Day of Sant Jordi.
Day of Sant Jordi in Barcelona
On 23 April not only Sant Jordi is being celebrated, as this date coincides with International Book Day. On this day we commemmorate and honour great authors, like William Shakespeare and Miguel de Cervantes.
That is the reason why you see the streets of Barcelona being filled with bookstalls, where famous writers sit behind a table to sign their works for you.
Although 23 April is not an official public holiday, both locals and visitors love to gather in the streets of Barcelona to fully soak up the experience of Sant Jordi. This is the day to express how much you love the people closest to you and your passion for reading.
Sant Jordi 2021
This year’s Sant Jordi in Barcelona will be different from other years, as 2021 will still be impacted by mobility and capacity limitations. These limitations are in force in Catalonia due to the Coronavirus.
After having experienced an unusual Sant Jordi last year, which was postponed to and celebrated in July because of a strict lockdown, this year can only be better.
To avoid crowds in the main streets of Barcelona, however, and unlike what happens during any of the other years, book and flower stalls can be set up out on the streets only two days before the 23rd (and on the day itself), and inside the shops only 50% of the normal capacity is allowed and all Covid measures must be respected.
The following locations in Barcelona are the places where you can get your books or flowers for Sant Jordi:
- Passeig de Gràcia
- Arc de Triomf
- Plaça Reial
- Rambla de Poble Nou
- Jardins del Palau Robert
- Passeig Picasso
- Avinguda Diagonal
Although there are still regional restrictions (not travelling between comarcas) on 23 April, every Catalan municipality will organise its Diada de Sant Jordi and celebrate the day with different types of events.
Now that you know the history behind Sant Jordi and more of the traditional celebrations on this day, get ready to make the most of this special date on the calendar.
Did you already know about the legend of Saint George and the Dragon?
And will you be buying a book or red rose for your partner?
Share your experiences or tips in the comment section!