St Jordi is like Catalan Valentine’s Day, the day of the rose and book, the day of love and culture. People are out and about, and there are stalls selling roses and books everywhere. The day is a mix of two traditions: Saint Jordi is the patron saint of Catalonia, and there is also the tale of St. George and the dragon. In Barcelona, April 23rd is a day when pretty much every major street is filled with book stalls and roses for sale. The streets are crowded as people peruse the books, old and new, and look for flowers to buy. As the tradition goes, a man buys a woman a rose, and the woman buys the man a book in exchange. 

All the roses for the ladies

 

The story behind the tradition is that of the Saint Jordi or George, who was a pretty tough guy. As the legend has it, there was a dragon that poisoned the village air. The villagers would sacrifice a lamb and a chosen virgin to please the dragon, and as one day the princess was chosen, George killed the dragon and freed her. (After this the princess and the whole village were converted into Christianity, welcome to the middle ages!) On another version of the story, I read that George then plucked a red rose for the princess from a bush that has blossomed in exactly the same spot where the dragon’s blood had spilt. 

Casa Batlló in a party suit

 A little curiosity regarding the tale: in the famous Casa Batilló, Gaudí built the roof to resemble this dragon. 

The Day of the Book and the Rose is not just for lovers, though. You can buy roses to your friends and family, male or female, and same goes for books. It just so happens to also be the World day of the book, so spreading knowledge couldn’t come at a better time! 


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