Monday, April 25, 2011

Books And Roses: La Diada De Sant Jordi

A celebration of the patron saint of Catalunya, La Diada de Sant Jordi (Saint George's day), took place this last Saturday. Dia de Sant Jordi feels similar to Valentine's in the U.S. since it's a day that couples celebrate and demonstrate their love for one another. I was at the Alhambra last year and was looking forward to being here for this year's celebration. It turns out that it was exceptionally well attended this year probably due to it falling on Saturday of the four-day Easter weekend. There are celebrations all over the city but the largest gathering takes place on La Rambla that runs through the middle of Barcelona.

To show their love, tradition dating back to at least the 15th century dictates that the couple give each other a rose. It is said that when Sant Jordi saved the princess by killing the dragon its blood turned to roses and the tradition comes from this. Today, it's men who give their woman a rose.

Like Valentine's day taking place on February 14th, Sant Jordi day is held each year on April 23rd. This date corresponds with the anniversary of the deaths of Shakespeare and Cervantes (author of Don Quixote). Recent tradition has a women giving her man a book. To meet demand, book vendors are set up all over La Rambla and some even feature signings by writers.

The Dia De La Rosa (Day of the Rose - another name for St. George's day) is another of many local events that are steeped in Catalan tradition. It's another chance for the residents of Catalunya to demonstrate their nationalist agenda. Booths are set up by groups to raise awareness and support for their political views. Actually, it seems that many of the booths, but especially the flower vendors, are raising money and/or awareness of something or other. I like that you can buy your flowers/books AND support a cause at the same time, even if it's something as non-political as the local rugby team.

Sant Jordi day is a neat tradition enjoyed by both lovers and whole families. I saw lots of parents buying their kids books and flowers/books for each other. Of course, what event would be complete without hanging out with "the gang"? Thanks for coming out to celebrate and walk La Rambla.

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