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Sant Jordi: a unique celebration of love and culture

With roses and books the main stars of the feast day, Catalonia pays tribute to its patron saint like nowhere else

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23 April 2019 09:34 AM

by

ACN | Barcelona

April 23 is one of Catalonia's most important dates of the year, as it's the day that the country celebrates its patron, Sant Jordi (Saint George), and does so in its own unique way.

One of the stars of Sant Jordi's Day is the rose, as the custom dating back to the Middle Ages is for people to gift loved ones with a book.

April 23 always sees streets all over Catalonia decked out with flower and book stalls, as millions turn out in the (usually) fine spring sunshine to browse the stalls for a love token.

While the tradition of gifting a rose on Sant Jordi goes back to the 15th century, the custom of giving books was introduced in the 1930s to promote book sales.

Recently, Sant Jordi has seen changes to its format, such as the erosion of the traditional gender split of books for men and roses for women, reflecting changes in society.

April 23 is also widely believed to be the day that Miguel de Cervantes and William Shakespeare, Europe's two great writers, died, leading UNESCO to choose it for its World Book and Copyright Day.

Yet, while Saint George's Day is celebrated in many places around the world, from England and Ethiopia to Palestine and Russia, perhaps no one does it quite like the Catalans.

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  • For Sant Jordi, Catalans gift books to their loved ones, resulting in astounding sales every year (by Andrea Zamorano)

  • For Sant Jordi, Catalans gift books to their loved ones, resulting in astounding sales every year (by Andrea Zamorano)