As an expat, do you celebrate St Georges day in Spain? Do you celebrate it English or Spanish style? Did you know that Sant Jordi is also a big celebration in Catalonia, Northern Spain?
Following our recent trip to Barcelona and our fascination with the the architecture and the history that is found in every street and building around the city, we decided to invite Matthew from Barcelona to tell us a little bit more about St George’s Day in Spain.
Over to you Matthew ….
St George’s Day – The most romantic day of the year?
We all know the tale of ‘St George and the Dragon‘. The knight in shining armour who comes to the rescue of a damsel in distress about to meet her demise at the hands of a monstrous dragon. Apart from maybe retelling the tale to their kids, the average reader from England and the UK sees St George’s Day more as an event to celebrate national pride, which of course, is brilliant! However, apart from the increased presence of flags and bunting, very rarely is the day truly celebrated and there is no official way to rejoice in the occasion.
Meanwhile 700 miles south, Catalonia – whose patron saint is also St. George – do have their own official celebration for the day, and it centres around the aforementioned tale. You see, in the Catalan version, after Saint George (or Sant Jordi as he is known here) slays the dragon a red rose bush grows from the blood of the beast, which he gives to the princess and they live happily ever after. Today, men all over the region try to make their own happily ever after by presenting the one they love with a rose, just as the brave knight was said to have done.
Whether you’re in Barcelona or Girona, all around Catalonia you’ll find that the streets are absolutely chockablock with stalls selling roses of all kinds of colours from red, white, and pink to blue, black, and even multicolour. Locals stroll hand-in-hand as pairs, taking in the vibrant atmosphere. You’ll also see men nervously carrying roses along the street as they’re preparing to present them to someone special, and women walking home with a spring in their step, roses in hand and a person in their hearts.
The celebration doesn’t end there though! At the beginning of the 20th century, a bookseller noticed that the day coincided with both the death of William Shakespeare and the apparent burial of Miguel Cervantes. While men were buying roses, this bookseller proposed that women buy their partner a book, and so it has since remained. You only have to walk down Las Ramblas to see the masses of book stalls on the street, as well as various book fairs being held around the city. This Catalan tradition caught on so well that at the end of the century, UNESCO took note and officially declared April 23rd as World Book Day.
If you’re looking for family-friendly things to do, there are many events held specifically for this day. For instance, it’s open-house at Barcelona’s City Hall and Parliament buildings which are usually closed to the public on Plaça Sant Juame. There is also a free workshop for families at Carrer Buenaventura Muñoz, 21 where children can make objects related to the story of ‘St George and the Dragon’. All in all though, the celebration of St George’s Day takes place on the streets because the entire city becomes an attraction thanks to the lively and cheerful atmosphere. So if worst comes to worst, simply take a relaxing family stroll and let the magic of the celebration fascinate you…
About the Author: Matthew Debnam
A London ex-pat who made the move to Barcelona 4 years ago. He writes part-time for various local businesses including OK Apartment, who provide holiday apartments and monthly rentals in Barcelona, but is a full-time tourist at heart.