Celebrating Saint Jordi’s Day in Catalonia

Saint Jordi balconies

Since 1926, Saint Jordi’s Day (La Diada de Sant Jordi, in Catalan and St. George’s Day, in English) has been celebrated every year on April 23rd in the Catalan region of Spain. Somewhat akin to our Valentine’s Day, men have given women roses on that day as an expression of love since Medieval times.

In the 1920s, the PR-savvy Catalan Bookseller’s Association appropriated the day as a great time to celebrate not only love but great literature—and as a way to sell books. This led to the birth of the beloved Sant Jordi Book Festival and the updated tradition of men giving roses to women and women giving books to men. Over the years, exchanges of books between both genders have become increasingly common.

The day, which coincides with United Nation’s World Book and Copyright Day, is not only culturally but also economically significant with some 10 percent of authors’ and publishers’ annual book sales generated on that day. 

While the world stays home

Catalan News reported that as of April 19, 2020, there were 42,610 confirmed Covid-19 cases and 4,576 deaths of Catalonians (either diagnosed in medical centers or suspected to have contracted the illness).

As a result, unlike prior St. Jordi celebrations that typically took place across the busiest streets and town squares — like Barcelona’s Rambla, Passeig de Gràcia and Rambla de Catalunya — this year, residents are being asked to celebrate and honor the day from their homes by undertaking various creative initiatives and connecting via social media. 

To keep Saint Jordi’s Day alive, government and a number of organizations in Catalonia have developed new initiatives to breathe life into the holiday and reimagine it during this challenging time:

  • In collaboration with Barcelona Global and Barcelona Turisme, Casa Batllo—the modernist house museum designed by Antonio Gaudi—has launched a social media campaign to encourage residents to decorate their windows and balconies with roses from recycled materials. The organization’s website posts tutorials to help people of all ages participate and get creative.
  • Through the city’s Guild of Florists, 100 florists will continue the tradition of making home deliveries of roses.
  • Partnering with the florists’ guild, the Guild of Booksellers of Catalonia has launched an initiative, #SantJordiAlsBalcons (“Sant Jordi at the balconies”) is also encouraging residents to decorate their balconies with drawings of dragons, roses, stories or book covers and enter a contest for the most ornate one. They are also urging residents to get in the spirit of the day by reading on their balconies or out their windows. #LibresALAire (“Books in the air”) 
  • Finally, to help booksellers bear the economic strain of remaining closed during the pandemic, bookstores are encouraging upfront purchases of books that will be delivered after the quarantine is lifted. #SantJordiEtsTu (“You are Sant Jordi”)

Saint Jordi in New York

Saint Jordi in NYC
(Credit: Saint Jordi in NYC)

The non-profit Farragut Fund for Catalan Culture in the U.S, has designed a program entitled, 24 Hours of Sant Jordi NYCin collaboration with numerous bookstores, libraries, and cultural institutions. This free virtual celebration of literature promises three days of events live-streamed in English, during which participants will have access to literature from a broad range of countries and languages. 

Roses for St. Jordi Day
Roses: The symbol of St. Jordi’s Day (Credit: Pixabay)

  • Planners hope that another St. Jordi’s Day Celebration will take place on July 23, 2020, after stay-at-home orders are removed.
  • For more information about Catalonia and its cultural offerings, visit catalunya.com.

Read more: Previous articles on MoreTimeToTravel about Barcelona

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