Catalonia: a rose for love and a book forever on Sant Jordi Day

Holiday. Sant Jordi (Saint George's) Day, or the Rose Day. Every year on 23rd April.

Where? Catalonia (an autonomous community of Spain). 

The meaning and history. “Sant Jordi” is the most romantic Catalan festival, similar to Valentine's Day. Sant Jordi (Saint George) is the patron saint of Catalonia. The main thing about this holiday is the exchange of gifts (the roses and the books) between sweethearts, loved ones and colleagues. It is a day to show your love and trust to the person you love. Sant Jordi Day is not a public holiday but people find time to celebrate it throughout the day.

The legend is that Sant Jordi set free the Catalan village of Montblanc and its princess from the terrible dragon which was devastating that little place. After the short but very intensive fight with a spear, a rose bush grew up from the blood that gushed out from the dragon, with the most beautiful roses the princess had ever seen. The young prince cut one of them and offered it to the princess as a sign of his love.

This is why on that day according to tradition, couples exchange gifts: a rose for the women and a book for the men, “a rose for love and a book forever”. By the way, Catalonia exported this tradition to the rest of the world: in 1995, UNESCO adopted 23 April as World Book Day.

How it is celebrated. Maria Piedad Guerrero Arjona came from Catalonia, Spain, and has been living in Austria with her husband and three children since summer 2013. Being a German philologist, now she is responsible for communication at the CIC.

Maria tells about the Rose Day: “Book and flowers stalls are set up along the streets in all cities and small towns in Catalonia. You can find the latest publications and meet well-known artists signing copies of their books. Most women carry a rose in their hands. It’s an impressive spectacle of colour, scent and life, a day of love and cultury. Just imagine: a half of the total yearly book sales in Catalonia take place on this holiday!”

Family traditions. For Maria’s family Sant Jordi Day is a loved holiday. “Not only my husband and I exhange a book and a rose. Also children become these gifts. I buy a book also for my two sons. And since my daughter loves reading, she gets a book too! Of course, we keep on celebrating our tradition in Austria. It makes us feeling happy“, she says.

Maria considers that traditions approach us to the people and the place we are living. “We celebrate not only our traditions but also the new we learn to know. Our children spoke already two languages: Catalan and Spanish, and we want them to learn German. It’s important for us to give them an experience of meeting a new culture and different ways of life, because it really enriches our lives. We love Austria, and if some day we leave it, we will continue celebrating also Austrian traditions”.

Text: Vita Vitrenko, Photos: Montse Mundet, Maria Piedad Guerrero Arjona.