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What to do on Sant Jordi day in Barcelona

23rd of April is a day of flowers and letters, culture and romance in Barcelona. On this day, the patron saint of Catalonia (Santo patrón de Cataluña) and also the International Book Day (Día Internacional del Libro) are celebrated. The combination of both traditions results in a highly anticipated festive day for all the locals who take a walk through the main streets of the city and enjoy giving gifts to each other.

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History of the celebration

The traditional festival of Sant Jordi and International Book Day are on the same day, although they have a common origin, both traditions consist of the most anticipated celebrations for the people of Catalonia and especially for Barcelona itself.

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But what is the origin of this celebration ?

The traditional Diada de Sant Jordi celebrates the heroism and victory over evil. The legend dates back centuries when an entire kingdom was terrorised by a dragon that made him daily offerings to avoid being attacked. But one day the terrifying dragon attacked the princess and Sant Jordi fought the beast with his sword and spear until he won the battle by killing the beast whose blood turned into rose with which the soldier gifted to the princess.

Although this story of the fight with the dragon is common in different European countries, it has a special significance for the Catalans, so in the mid-fifteenth century, the celebration began and from 1094 Sant Jordi became patron saint of Catalonia. He was even considered the patron saint of lovers and many Catalans also celebrate Valentine's Day on April 23rd as well as on 14th February.

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Why give a rose and a book?

Sant Jordi is the patron saint of lovers, one of the traditions of this day is that a man gives a red rose to his girlfriend, while she presents him with a book. But not a pink flower. It should be red, just one and be accompanied by an ear of corn.

Each element has its own meaning, red symbolises passion, and being the only one symwbolizes the uniqueness of the relationship and the ear of corn represents fertility. While the tradition of giving a book was subsequently introduced at a later date, some believe that because the princess gave her poetry to San Jordi, others followed by combining this celebration with the International Book Day.

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Where to celebrate Diada de Sant Jordi?

This day is celebrated in different parts of Europe as well as in England, Greece and Portugal. In most parts of Spain, including Baleares and Catalonia it is referred to as the patron saint of Aragon, where it is clearly celebrated with great traditionalism.

Focusing in Catalonia, specifically in Barcelona, every 23rd April​the streets are decorated with party gear. The celebrations take place with great enthusiasm and they are where most people strongly preserve the tradition of giving roses and books. La Rambla and Passeig de Gràcia are the main meeting places where different activities are carried out and the streets are filled with locals and visitors who make the most of this joyful tradition.

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Photo: © Wikimedia

Day activities

Diada de Sant Jordi is expected and received with pleasure by all locals who have a particular likeness for mass gatherings in colourful streets and take part in different activities as well as give books and roses to each other.

For book lovers

The best known celebration takes place in the variety of locations where you will find roses as well as books in all possible topics to appreciate. This is very tempting, so much so that in only one day all the books are sold for approximately $ 20 million euros.

Book readings can be seen throughout the day, as you can get personally signed books by authors in many public places such as the Rambla and in city's bookstores.

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Photo: © Wikimedia

Culture and history

Open house activities are the other attractive, historic buildings that open their doors to the public.

One such place is the City of Barcelona where you can find spaces like the Bon Consell, Saló de Cròniques, Galería Gótica and many others. Casa de Convalecencia also opens its doors every year to allow visitors access to the Mercè Rodoreda garden and other areas.

The Catalunya Library (Biblioteca de Catalunya) where book readings and guided tours are conducted, is very popular, so is the Palacio de la Capitanía.

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Music and Art

There is never a lack of music in the Sant Jordi celebration as during the festive day you can enjoy concerts in historic buildings, but you can also enjoy free live concerts in the most important squares.

Theatrical performances are another attraction that never fail to impress during this festival. These can be seen in the streets and theatres offering deals on show tickets.

This is definitely a celebration full of emotions, culture and tradition that opens the doors to spring and encourages a love of reading.

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