Mark Your Calendar: Sant Jordi in Catalonia – A Day of Roses, Dragons, and Books!

Find out all about the most important festival in Catalonia

Mark Your Calendar: Sant Jordi in Catalonia – A Day of Roses, Dragons, and Books!
Juan Carlos Saloz

Juan Carlos Saloz

Sant Jordi is the most special day in Catalonia. At this time, all the municipalities of Barcelona, Girona, Lleida and Tarragona are dyed red and yellow to take the roses for a walk and fill everything with books. The tradition of the knight and the dragon takes shape and all families give each other novels, essays, comics and all kinds of literature.

But where does Sant Jordi come from and why is it so important? When exactly is it celebrated? Why does the tradition of giving books and roses exist? Below, we leave you with everything you need to know about this important day. And, if you want, you can follow our guide to enjoy it in Barcelona.

When is Sant Jordi celebrated?

Sant Jordi, St. George in Spanish, is celebrated on April 23 each year. Although in recent years we have gone through hard times by COVID-19 and bad weather, this time it seems that the festival will continue its course. And, on this occasion, the day falls on a public holiday (Sunday) so it is perfect to celebrate it.

Why is Sant Jordi celebrated in Catalonia?

The legend of Sant Jordi is one of the best known and most beloved of Catalan culture. It tells the story of a brave knight, Saint George, who saved a princess from a terrible dragon that was holding her prisoner in a tower. According to legend, St. George killed the dragon with his sword and freed the princess, becoming a hero. In gratitude, the princess gave him a red rose, which is the symbol of the feast of Sant Jordi.

But why is this holiday celebrated in Catalonia? The answer goes back to the 15th century. On April 23, 1616, two great literary geniuses died: Miguel de Cervantes and William Shakespeare. As a tribute to these great writers, UNESCO decided to declare April 23rd as International Book Day in 1995.

In Catalonia, the celebration of the Book Day was mixed with the legend of Sant Jordi. Thus, April 23rd became a double celebration: the Day of the Book and the Rose and the Day of Sant Jordi.

What to give in Sant Jordi?

During this day, the streets of Catalonia are filled with book and rose stalls. It is estimated that around 6 million books and 7 million roses are sold on this holiday, making it one of the busiest shopping days of the year in the region. In addition, various cultural activities such as poetry recitals, book presentations and street performances are organized to celebrate the love for literature and culture.

Tradition dictates that men give a rose to women, while women give a book to men. Today, however, this custom has expanded so that anyone can give a book or a rose to their loved one, regardless of gender.

In addition to the sale of books and roses, Sant Jordi is also an occasion to enjoy Catalan gastronomy. Many restaurants offer special menus for the occasion, and you can find street stalls selling typical sweets such as panellets and cocas de Sant Jordi.

Another interesting aspect of the celebration of Sant Jordi is that it has expanded beyond Catalonia. In other parts of Spain and the world, the Day of the Book and the Rose is celebrated on April 23, and in some cases the custom of giving a rose and a book as a gift has been adopted.

Finally, it is important to note that Sant Jordi also has a vindictive character. For some years now, activities and events related to gender equality and the fight against gender violence have been organized during this holiday. In this way, the aim is to give a message of commitment and social awareness on a day that, in addition to being a popular holiday, can serve to highlight important current issues.

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Juan Carlos Saloz

Juan Carlos Saloz

Cultural journalist specialized in film, series, comics, video games, and everything your parents tried to keep you away from during your childhood. Also an aspiring film director, screenwriter, and professional troublemaker.

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