Sant Jordi: love, roses and books
Saint George (Sant Jordi in Catalan) is the patron saint of Catalonia. Every 23rd April the traditional red roses and all kinds of books invade the streets creating a unique atmosphere. Tradition says that the man gives a rose to his loved one and she offers a book to the man she loves. However, tradition has evolved and people also give books and roses to partners, family members and friends now. Despite the crisis six million roses and a million books are expected to be sold.
Barcelona (CNA).- Saint George is the patron saint of many countries and cities in the world such as Portugal, England, Istambul and Beirut, for example. He is also the patron saint of Catalonia. April 23rd is a special day for the Catalans: ‘the day of the rose and the book’. Tradition says that the man gives a rose to his loved one while the woman gives a book to the man she loves. However, tradition has evolved and, now, both men and women give books and roses to partners, family members and friends. Streets are full of couples looking for a perfect romantic day, and many people of all ages are searching bookstands for the perfect literary present or carrying roses.
It is easy to know where the rose symbol comes from. National legend explains that Sant Jordi saved a princess from a dragon that was terrorizing her village. After killing the dragon Sant Jordi observed that a rosebush emerged from the dragon’s blood spread on the floor. He picked up the most beautiful red rose and offered it to the princess. The day has been celebrated since the fifteenth century but it was not restored until 1914. Fourteen years later, the booksellers and publishers guild of Barcelona introduced the book as the second element in this popular event. This day was not chosen randomly as the 23rd April 1616 was when Miguel de Cervantes and William Shakespeare died.
Catalan society mobilises itself from early morning onwards. Schools, all kinds of associations, professional florists and street vendors put their rose stands on the street. The red rose is the most traditional one but you can find roses with different shapes, colours or sizes. The most innovative one last year was a red and yellow rose, the colours of the Catalan flag. Rose sales this year will be around six million, 20% less than 2012, according to Jordi Rodón, the president of the main flower market in Catalonia.
Books also play a main role on the streets and in the book shops. The booksellers' guild sells between 5% and 8% of all books sold throughout the whole year during Sant Jordi’s day. Forecasts predict that this year about 1.4 million books will be sold. Many books wait for Sant Jordi to appear and the most popular authors fight to enter the bestsellers list as fans queue up patiently on the streets waiting for their favourite writers to sign their recently acquired book.