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Sant Jordi: Catalonia celebrates most romantic day of the year with books and roses

Love and literature in the air with over 435 stands selling books and roses in Barcelona alone

A couple kisses while she holds a rose on Sant Jordi 2024
A couple kisses while she holds a rose on Sant Jordi 2024 / Jordi Borràs
Catalan News

Catalan News | @catalannews | Barcelona

April 23, 2024 08:41 AM

April 23, 2024 09:31 PM

One of the most important days of the year, for many Catalans, has arrived. Thousands took to the streets on Tuesday to celebrate Sant Jordi, the most romantic day in the territory.

A man selects a rose to buy during Sant Jordi on the streets of Barcelona on April 23, 2024
A man selects a rose to buy during Sant Jordi on the streets of Barcelona on April 23, 2024 / Jordi Borràs

The day known for turning the streets red with roses and filling hands with books was guaranteed to be a record-breaking edition. There have never been so many stands in Barcelona to celebrate the Catalan version of Valentine's Day -  435 in total across the city.


At many of those stands there were international authors signing their books for fans, as well as other Catalan and Spanish writers or famous personalities such as Instagrammers, football players, and singers.

The weather was mixed, with sun and some light showers, as bookstores looked to surpass last year’s 1.87 million books sold, worth around €24 million.

Sant Jordi was not only celebrated in Barcelona but also outside of the city, all around Catalonia. 

People walk in front of a rose stall on Passeig de Gràcia on Sant Jordi 2024
People walk in front of a rose stall on Passeig de Gràcia on Sant Jordi 2024 / Gerard Escaich Folch

One of the activities in the Catalan capital was an AI art projection in the famous Sagrada Familia basilica. Besides that, anyone named Jordi, Jordina, Jorge, George or another version of those names in any language could visit the iconic building for free.

This year, the Florists' Guild predicted that seven million roses coulds be sold on Sant Jordi's day, 20% more than last year. A small percentage of those were grown in Catalan soil. The rest are imported, mostly from Colombia and Ecuador.

Atmosphere in Barcelona

One of the most enjoyable aspects of the day is the atmosphere on the streets of the cities and towns across Catalonia. 

In Barcelona, thousands and thousands of people peruse the book and flower stalls on Passeig de Gràcia, La Rambla, Passeig de Sant Joan, and more.

Madeleine, from Baltimore, has been living in Barcelona since 1999, and in fact arrived to Catalonia on April 23 that year - Sant Jordi - "but I didn't know it was Sant Jordi," she explains.

"I arrived right over here at Estació del Nord, and I went walking, it was 6 am, and people were setting up stands with books, and I thought 'Oh I love this city, I want to live here'."


Paul, from Canada, tells Catalan News that he came to Barcelona after hearing "so many wonderful things" about Sant Jordi and "wanted to participate" in the festival of the book and rose. "So, if you look, I was given a rose that will last forever this way."


Julia calls it a "beautiful combination" to celebrate "literature and love," and tells Catalan News that she was out and about looking for books and roses for her roommates and best friend. 

Agustín says he "loves reading books," but has a "mixed feeling" about the day as he doesn't have a partner "right now." Instead, "I bought a rose for my mom," he says.


Raphael was impressed by seeing "a lot of flowers" but wasn't very familiar with the festival, but was nevertheless enjoying the atmosphere in the city.  


And while Sant Jordi is of course a celebration of Catalan culture, English-language bookshops in Barcelona also get in on the act.

International authors

Among the hundreds of authors who set themselves up in stalls to meet with fans and readers throughout the day were many who came from around the world. 


Sohn Won-pyung, from South Korea, had a busy day sitting in stands of various bookshops throughout the city meeting with readers. Her latest work, Almond, has been a huge success across the world, and has been translated into Catalan and Spanish. 

This was the first time Sohn had seen a Sant Jordi festival in Catalonia, while her only other visit to Barcelona was already a decade ago. “I actually didn’t know [Sant Jordi] was so huge and so lovely because of the combination of roses and books, it’s fantastic.” For the Korean writer, the day “represents some spirit of Catalonia, I’m so happy to be here.” 

“It’s just totally amazing that I could come from overseas with my book, which was written in Korean, and it could move other people’s minds, it’s unbelievable,” she added. “I’m thrilled.”


Meanwhile, Hernán Díaz was born in Argentina but grew up in Sweden and spent a lot of time in the United States. His latest work, Trust, won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, and he told Catalan News that it was “absolutely thrilling and breathtaking to see a city taken over by fervent and passionate readers” on his first Sant Jordi. “It’s a dream come true it’s really incredible.”

“I have never seen anything like this, it’s amazing,” he said of the festival. “You’re very lucky to live in a city that supports book culture so intensely and has such passionate readers. I’m jealous.”

He explained that on this visit he’s “learning about the book world here in Barcelona and the Catalan world of writers which is so rich, it’s like a literary rave in a way, it’s amazing.”

Díaz was delighted to meet with readers, as is tradition on Sant Jordi, as he explained that “writing is a very lonely process, it’s a very lonely experience for many many years, and then suddenly you emerge from your cave and you’re met with this.” He called meeting with fans “unforgettable and exciting.” 

Monika Zgustova is an international writer with something of a different profile, as the Prague-born writer has actually lived in Catalonia for the last 30 years. After years of translating from Czech and Russian to Catalan and Spanish, she is now finding international success with her own fiction and non-fiction works. 

“I’m still impressed,” she says about the Sant Jordi festivities. “Every time it’s really like a feast, like a party for me, and I think this is the most beautiful day.” 

“It’s a working day in Barcelona but at the same time, people come out of their work and they really enjoy it every year, it does not get boring,” she added.

Zgustova enjoyed the experience of meeting with readers, as she described the act of writing to Catalan News as “something anonymous, you do it alone.” For her, “to have contact with readers is amazing. Fans come here, it gives a boost of energy because they tell you how great you are and how they like to follow you,” she says, laughing. 

Top-selling authors 

The top-selling fiction authors this Sant Jordi were Ramon Gener, Xavi Coral, Joël Dicker, Eva Baltasar, Eduardo Mendoza, Javier Castillo and Michael McDowell. 

For non-fiction, Carles Porta, Quim Monzó, Xevi Verdaguer, Maria Nicolau and Marian Rojas were the most popular names. 

That is according to the Booksellers Guild, based on trends from bookstores up to 6pm. 

It will publish a list on Wednesday with sales figures from shops, and on Monday will announce the definitive ranking for Sant Jordi 2024, including sales from street stalls. 

According to the preliminary estimates, 54% of sales have been books in Catalan, with 46% in Spanish.