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Sant Jordi, much more than books and roses

The Catalan tradition of Sant Jordi (Saint George) dictates that men should buy a red rose to their beloved and women ought to give them a book in return. That's the theory, but in practice the crowd who fills the centre of Barcelona is buying many other things, such as earrings, T-shirts or even scarlet artichokes… April 23rd is a good day to be in Barcelona. The atmosphere is cheerful and roses tower over thousands of people who stroll down la Rambla, looking for a certain title at the bookstands or just being seduced by the cover of the latest bestseller.

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23 April 2013 09:18 PM

by

Laia Miranda / Anna Pérez Martí / Helena Xirgu

Barcelona (CNA) - April 23rd is a good day to be in Barcelona. The atmosphere is cheerful and roses tower over thousands of people who stroll down la Rambla, looking for a certain title at the bookstands or just being seduced by the cover of the latest bestseller. Long queues are formed to get books signed by their authors, and bunches of roses are ready to be sold at makeshift points all over the city. Fortunately, there is a rose for every taste: from the classical red to the electrical blue and even rainbow ones. Many balconies are dressed with the national flag of Catalonia because, although officially today is not a holiday, on the streets of Barcelona it certainly feels that way.


That's what Andy and Kate thought when they saw the hustle and bustle in the city centre. These two English tourists had never heard about Sant Jordi\u2019s Day until they travelled to Barcelona and read about it in a guidebook. Now they have embraced the tradition: "Of course he's buying me a rose", laughed Kate, "and I will buy him a book as soon as I find one in English".

A battle for originality

Books and roses weren't the only protagonists of the day: jewellery, t-shirts and vases were also being sold. Some stands intended to attract as many passer-bys as possible by dressing up with medieval costumes or offering biscuits or a piece of sponge cake with every rose. The Catalan translators' guild carried a real bed to emphasise their work, because, as they said, "many of us sleep with a different translator every night without knowing it".

There was even a stand which, instead of roses, was selling artichokes painted in red. Amanda Piñeiro explained how she came up with the idea: "Last Saint George's Day my boyfriend left work very late and didn't have time to buy me a rose. So he bought an artichoke in a greengrocer and painted it in red by hand".

Everyone's joining the party

Charity organisations, political parties and football teams also have their stands. For example, the Red Cross organisation is fundraising for its Christmas solidarity campaign, when food kits and toys will be given to those who need them. Estrella Damm, one of the most popular beers in Catalonia, has organised a series of concerts in its old factory, as well as CD's and books' signings. Visitors were given a free beer and a rose as a present.

However, this year not everyone was happy. The Barcelona City Council has established severe controls regarding the stand's placement, and only 16 flower shops were allowed to sell in La Rambla. The other rose sellers were assigned spots much further away and so occupied the free space in La Rambla anyway, which cost them a 50 euros fine.

Love is in the air

Saint George can be regarded as a popular street level consumer celebration, like a Catalan Saint Valentine's Day, but it is much more than this. Many young men will declare their love for the first time with a rose, and couples that have been together for 50 years will renew their love once a year with this tradition. It is also a day to spend with family and a powerful initiative for the promoting reading. Visca Sant Jordi!

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  • Sant Jordi earings (by H. Xirgu)

  • People enjoying Sant Jordi in Barcelona's Les Rambles (by M. Ferragut)

  • Red artichokes for Sant Jordi (by H. Xirgu)

  • The charity 'Amics de la Gent Gran' sells roses and books to fund their solidarity projects for the elderly (by M. Belméz)

  • Sant Jordi earings (by H. Xirgu)
  • People enjoying Sant Jordi in Barcelona's Les Rambles (by M. Ferragut)
  • Red artichokes for Sant Jordi (by H. Xirgu)
  • The charity 'Amics de la Gent Gran' sells roses and books to fund their solidarity projects for the elderly (by M. Belméz)