Celebrating an 'alternative' Sant Jordi's Day

April 23 honors Catalonia's patron saint, and while the health crisis means public gatherings are banned, there are ways to mark this special day


A floriculturist takes care of roses to be sold for Sant Jordi, on April 7, 2020 (by Jordi Pujolar)
A floriculturist takes care of roses to be sold for Sant Jordi, on April 7, 2020 (by Jordi Pujolar) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

April 23, 2020 08:27 AM

Normally on April 23, streets and squares all over Catalonia would be filled with crowds of people browsing stalls selling books and roses as the country honors its patron saint, Sant Jordi (Saint George), through a celebration of romance and reading.

The coronavirus crisis and the restrictions on moving around and gatherings mean this year's Sant Jordi's Day will be like no other. While the celebration has been moved to July 23, Catalonia will still mark one of the most popular dates in its annual calendar.     

Sant Jordi's Day revolves around the tradition of loved ones exchanging a book for a rose, and following the postponement of the celebration, the book sector pointed out that while bookstores may be closed on Thursday, books can be purchased online.

The flower sector also called on people to purchase roses on the internet and have them sent to the homes of their loved ones. The #rosadesantjordiacasa campaign includes some 110 florists, with the aim of selling 300,000 roses.

In a gesture of appreciation for front line health workers and their hard work during the crisis, on Thursday various organizations made gifts of roses to hospitals and healths centers, such as the Mercabarna wholesale market that delivered 3,000 roses for health workers at Bellvitge hospital. 

Booksellers and florists also urged people to come out on to their balconies to celebrate, with the book sector promoting a campaign under the hashtag #llibresalaire calling for people to take to their balconies or patios at midday and at 6pm to read out loud.

Government encourages sharing readings on social media

The Catalan authorities have also provided a series of proposals for people to celebrate Sant Jordi's Day despite the health restrictions. #LletresLliures, for example, encourages people to read texts aloud and share the recordings on social media.

A virtual visit to the Palau de la Generalitat, the home of the Catalan government, is another of the proposals, with the tour available on the YouTube channel of the heritage department, which is called Patrimoni in Catalan.

The culture department has organized a choral project that will see hundreds of singers around Catalonia join together to sing 'Oració al Senyor Sant Jordi' with music by Francesc Vila and lyrics by the Catalan poet Salvador Espriu.

Catalonia's public diplomacy council, Diplocat, has an initiative that is part of its international #BooksAndRoses campaign in which people can send someone a virtual rose from the booksandroses.cat website with a message in Catalan, Spanish or English.

The Ramon Llull Institute, which promotes Catalan culture abroad, will have online readings from authors, such as Antoni Bassas and Najat el Hachmi, while even the Catalan police, the Mossos d'Esquadra, will mark the day by telling stories for children on Instagram.

Public museums put forward online proposals

With regard to public museums, Catalonia's history museum will recommend 10 historical books, while the national archaeological museum in Tarragona has proposed that small children do a craft project called 'Create a mosaic rose'.

Casa Batlló in Barcelona, under the hashtag #TotsFemSantJordi, is offering ideas and resources for decorating balconies with roses, while La Pedrera has set a challenge to become a hero or heroine on Instagram, with the hashtag #HeroisxSantJordi.

In the north of Catalonia, the foundation of surrealist artist Salvador Dalí has different digital proposals for celebrating Sant Jordi, including videoing readings of texts written by Dalí and his wife Gala and uploading them to Instagram stories with the hashtag #DaliBooks.

As for the Catalan education department, its Edu365 website has a Sant Jordi special with self-learning resources, while the health department is launching a storytelling initiative to thank health professionals for their fight against the “dragon” of coronavirus.

While the health crisis means that people will have to wait until the end of July before they can once again go on to the streets and exchange books and roses in the traditional manner, there are plenty of options for celebrating Sant Jordi on its actual day of April 23.