Saint George's Day
La Diada de Sant Jordi (Saint George's Day), also known as El dia de la Rosa (The Day of the Rose) or El dia del Llibre (The Day of the Book) is a Catalan holiday held on 23rd April, with similarities to Valentine's Day and some unique twists that reflect the antiquity of the celebrations.
Every 23rd of April, the people of Catalonia celebrate the festival of Saint George, the patron of Catalonia. Roses, books and Catalonia’s flag decorate the streets. This day has a special history.
Saint George tells the story about a country, Montblanc, that was guarded by a dragon which ate goats and people. The population of Montblanc was terrified, so they decided to pick a random person to satisfy the hunger of the dragon.
But one day, the person who was chosen was the king’s daughter. The princess was so kind, beautiful, elegant… Everyone loved her. However, the king was fair and he considered his daughter as anyone else. The princess went out of the castle to find the monster. While she was walking, there appeared a young knight riding a white horse. He had come to save the princess. When the monster got ready to eat the princess, the knight, with his sword, killed the dragon. And from his blood, there appeared a rose that the knight offered to the princess.
The main event is the exchange of gifts between sweethearts, beloved ones and colleagues. Historically, men gave a rose to women, and women gave a book to men to celebrate the occasion—"a rose for love and a book forever." In modern times, the mutual exchange of books is also quite common. Roses have been associated with this day since medieval times, but the giving of books is a more recent tradition set in 1923, when a bookseller started to promote the holiday as a way to commemorate the nearly simmultaneous deaths of Miguel Cervantes and William Shakespeare on the 23rd of April in 1616.
In Barcelona's most visited street, La Rambla, and all over Catalonia, thousands of stands of roses and makeshift bookstalls are hastily set up for the occasion. By the end of the day, most women will carry a rose in hand, and half of the total yearly book sales in Catalonia take place on this occasion.
The sardana, the national dance of Catalonia, is performed throughout the day in the Plaça Sant Jaume in Barcelona. Many book stores and cafes host readings by authors (including 24-hour marathon readings of different classics of the Catalan literature or the Spanish literature). Street performers and musicians in public squares add to the day's atmosphere.
Something similar is going on in all cities, towns and villages around Catalonia, and Mataró itself is not an exception. Visitors can live an incomparable atmosphere surrounded by stand of roses at every corner and bookstalls in the main streets.
23rd of April is also the only day of the year when the Palau de la Generalitat, Barcelona's principal government building, is open to public. The interior is decorated with roses to honour Saint George.
Catalonia exported the book and the rose tradition to the rest of the world. In 1995, the UNESCO adopted the 23rd of April as World Book Day.