Today, 23 April, is the day of St Jordi in Barcelona – one of the most special days for the people of Barcelona and Catalonia– when they celebrate culture and love!
This year, despite COVID restrictions, the streets will again be filled with roses and books, a hallmark of this day for decades. There will be more than 450 food and other market stalls across Catalonia offering roses, books and activities to mark this very special day in the city and the region’s calendar.
5 things you need to know about Sant Jordi in Barcelona
1. Barcelona – a capital of literature
Barcelona has become a well-recognized international publishing cluster – an accomplishment celebrated on Sant Jordi’s day. The City of Barcelona has also been awarded the status of City of Literature as part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.
That is why, with its extensive and unique cultural ecosystem, open to the world above all, Barcelona prides itself on being a cradle for many great writers, as well as for publishers and publishing companies of all sizes. In fact, Barcelona today houses the headquarters of three international publishing giants: Grupo Planeta, RBA and Penguin Random House, as well as more than 200 publishing houses of differing sizes.
Sant Jordi’s day is also the day on which the most books are sold throughout the year. In Barcelona alone, over 1.5 million books are sold on this day alone every year.
Read more about Barcelona as the capital of literature
2. The Legend of Sant Jordi
But why are Barcelonians celebrating Sant Jordi – who was he? Legend has it that a long time ago in a small town in Catalonia, there lived a dragon that could poison the air and kill the residents of this town with its toxic breath. The citizens, scared and eager for all this to end, decided to feed the dragon one person every day. This person was chosen through a lottery, and one day, the princess of the town was chosen. When she was leaving the castle and heading towards the dragon, a knight named Sant Jordi suddenly appeared to save her, slaying the dragon and freeing everyone from this nightmare. A beautiful rose bush blossomed where the dragon died and the handed the princess a red rose.
Since then, tradition demands that on this day every year men should give flowers to the women in their lives and in return, they receive a book. However, nowadays roles have changed, and books and flowers are given indiscriminately.
3. 2021 – Solidarity roses
During the year of the pandemic, the city offers us a different way to celebrate Sant Jordi: by inviting us to contribute to a good cause. Some of the organizations that have decided to raise funds on this special day include, the Vall d’Hebrón Hospital, which will allocate money to women in vulnerable situations; the Sant Joan de Déu Hospital, which will use funds raised for research; and Turisme de Barcelona, which sells a virtual rose in support of the food bank. In this way, we can enjoy the red-tinted, rose-filled streets while helping those who need it most.
4. Sant Jordi – Catalonia’s version of Valentine’s Day
During this day the feeling of love is everywhere in the city. It is often referred to as Valentine’s Day for the Catalans, since both men and women nowadays give each other a gift as a token of their love. Along with the roses and books, special dedications are also given to loved ones. Thus, Sant Jordi has become a day of culture and love – similar to Valentine’s Day.
5. Barcelona – take a walk through the city today!
On St Jordi day Barcelona is, without a doubt, more beautiful than ever. The city is full of joy, love and life, as well as being decorated with roses and filled with books, of course. Streets and buildings of the city are decorated with roses. La Rambla de Barcelona is one of the most emblematic streets to enjoy this day, meet new authors and take part in various activities in libraries, civic centers, as well as take in street concerts.
Although the festivities will, of course, be a little more subdued than normal this year, there will still be plenty to see and enjoy – it is the perfect day to learn more about the city, history and culture of Barcelona.