Saint George’s Day, on April 23rd, is known in Catalonia as Diada de Sant Jordi. Although it is not Catalonia’s National Day, Catalan people live Sant Jordi (patron saint of Catalonia) with pride and patriotism. Last year we posted an article about the traditions, rituals and the symbolism of celebrations on April 23rd, the day of Books and Roses. This time, we would like to explain you, visitor to our country, what Sant Jordi actually means to us, Catalan people, and what is the feeling behind these celebrations and events that take place on 23rd of April.
April 23rd is one of the big days of the year in Catalonia. The façades of the buildings are colored red and yellow because of the many Catalan flags placed on the balconies; the senyera (a synonym for the Catalan flag) covers the tables of book-sellers stalls and wraps the roses we give to our beloved ones. Sant Jordi’s Day it is not marked in the calendar as Public holiday but people wear a smile on their faces as if actually it was a bank holiday. Usually it is sunny, being one of the first warm days in the early spring, people can finally retrieve their summer clothes from the bottom of their wardrobes! The sun beams flood the streets with a bright light and people enjoy the brightness of the day from dawn till dusk. It feels wonderful to wander in the streets, and wherever there is a bookshop right in front there is a stall that has been set up for the day, among all the rest of book-seller stalls. Not far, probably right beside, someone will sell roses because people refuse to go inside flower shops or bookshops. On Sant Jordi ‘s Day life happens in the streets.
Bookshops and rose sellers fill the streets of every town and village in Catalonia. There are certain avenues and streets in particular where all main stalls are set and become the central point of the celebration. In Barcelona the main avenues are La Rambla, Rambla Catalunya and Passeig de Gràcia. For Catalans living in Barcelona, Sant Jordi’s Day gives us the opportunity to claim these popular streets -usually busy with tourists nowadays- as ours. In the rest of Catalonia, there is always a Rambla as well that concentrates most of the activity and where locals will go at some point during the day to purchase their books and roses.
What actually makes Sant Jordi such an special day is the fact that it involves a collective and intimate celebration at the same time. People enjoys being out in the streets along with hundreds of other people. Everybody is browsing through books, choosing the prettiest rose, queuing up to get their books signed by their writers, meeting their friends, family or partners to spend part of the day together. Radio and TV stations set their studios outdoors to be near the people, who are actually the life and soul of this celebration. Collectively we like to be part of this unique tradition that belongs to us, as people, as a nation. At the same time, the ritual of giving roses and books to the ones we love takes us back to our most personal and intimate part of our lives. Publicly and privately we enjoy celebrating our culture, our taste for literature, our patriotic feelings and specially our love.