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Books and Love...Sant Jordi and World Book Day

In 2019, I was leaving Barcelona for Cordoba, when I heard about the most wonderful tradition that was to take place the next day, April 23rd.

I was sad to have missed it, but my travel plans were set, and I wished that I knew about this tradition earlier.

The day is known as Sant Jordi…the day of Saint George, which just happens to coincide with the World Book Day. It’s a day when the Catalans celebrate literature and love by gifting each other books and roses.

On this day, towns in Catalonia are dressed in red.

I guess it is comparable to Valentine’s Day…except along with the roses, books are also gifted.

The streets of most Catalan cities are full of stalls selling books and roses. They say that an average of 4 million roses and 500,000 books are sold in Catalonia every year!

(These are both images of icons that I saw at a museum at the Benedictine abbey or Santa Maria de Monserrat)

The legend of Sant Jordi is a stereotypical fairytale of a beautiful princess, a knight on a white horse and a horrific dragon.

The Catalan version of this story tells us of a terrible dragon who was terrorising a small village close to Barcelona.

The terrified citizens thought that if they fed the dragon, they would calm his anger. However, dragons eat a lot and soon the village ran out of animals.

The next solution they thought of, was to sacrifice one person every day…chosen by drawing lots.

One day, it was the princess’ name that was drawn from the lot. The King distraught to let his daughter go, but he had no choice. Just when the terrific dragon was going to swallow her, a brave knight riding a white horse appeared. He was Sant Jordi. He fought the dragon, killing him with his lance.

Legend tells us that to show his love, he gave the princess a red rose from the rose bush that sprouted from the dragons blood.

Since then, in Catalan tradition, a red rose is gifted to loved ones on Sant Jordi…more recently, it is given to anyone you love to demonstrate affection.

The book giving tradition comes from the International World Book day, which started in Spain in 1923. The date coincides with the death of famous writers, Miguel de Cervantes and William Shakespeare.

In 1995, UNESCO declared the 23rd of April as the UNESCO World Book & Copyright Day.

The role of the books in the festivity is so significant that, in 2016, Barcelona became a UNESCO City of Literature.

What a beautiful tradition of sharing books and love!!!


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