Cataluña is very different to the rest of Spain and Europe; they have their own language, different traditions and their own bank holidays. Every day I’m discovering more about this rebellious region which doesn’t feel “part of Spain” and wants its independence.
As much as this blog is dedicated to restaurants, bars and cafés in Barcelona I would like to talk about a certain event that I thought was very interesting and fun: Sant Jordi.
Let’s go back to February 13th.
I was getting all excited about Valentine’s day, as any girl does, and told the everyone at work that we should all come dressed in red the next day and stick hearts on the office’s walls (yes I tend to go all “out” for these type of events). I was told that Valentine’s day wasn’t a big thing here in Catalonia, that Sant Jordi was their Valentine’s day. Hmmm…
Fast-forward to April 22nd.
On our lunch break, Laura was talking about a book she needed to buy for her boyfriend and what she was going to wear and do for Sant Jordi. (Light-bulb moment: something about Sant Jordi being Catalonia’s Valentine’s Day).
Sant Jordi is celebrated on April 23rd. Legend says there once was a dragon that killed everyone in a little town. In order to satisfy the dragon’s hunger, the people would sacrifice sheep and cows. But when they no longer had any they decided to use humans. One day the King’s daughter was chosen. He begged the people to spare the princess’s life and said he’d give them all his gold and kingdom. The people rejected his offer and allowed him 8 days to say goodbye to his daughter. On the 8th day, the princess was brought to the dragon’s cave. As the dragon was about to devour the girl a knight on a white horse arrived and threw his sword straight to the beast’s heart. From the animal’s blood blossomed several roses. Jordi, the knight, took the most beautiful one and offered it to the princess.
The King, full of joy and gratitude asked him to wed his daughter. He refused and left the kingdom.
The tradition, hence, is that every man offers a rose to his girlfriend/wife, mother or/and close girl friend on the day of Sant Jordi: April 23rd.
R.I.P SHAKESPEARE & MIGUEL DE CERVANTES
Sounds like Valentine’s day right? Think again!
On Valentine’s day, the women are the spoiled ones: men give us a rose and we don’t do anything in return (traditionally). However, over here, the men also receive a little gift from the girls: a book. Indeed, April 23rd is also the day of Shakespeare’s and, famous Spanish author, Miguel de Cervantes’s death. To honor them women offer books to their boyfriend/husband, father and/or close guy friends.
In addition, the reason why everyone knows it’s Valentine’s day is mainly due to the publicity in the streets and the shops decorated with hearts everywhere. However, over here, as much as you see the “Sant Jordi Menu” signs outside of almost every restaurant and café, that is nothing compared to what you experience in the streets. During the day you will see practically EVERY girl with one or several roses! It’s insane! In fact, 40% of Catalonia’s Rose sale happens on this very day and 10% for the books!
Now let’s go back to April 22nd at 8pm
I walked out of the Sephora located on the top of Rambla Catalunya when I noticed there were people setting up little stands. Hmm.. already setting up the stands for the next day? Ok this must be quite a big thing. Laura had told me people sell roses and books on the streets. Again that is a difference compared to Valentine’s day: you do not buy the gift for your partner on your own in advance: you walk down the streets together and look for the prettiest rose for her and the perfect book for him.
I had barely stepped outside of my building when I saw the streets covered in red from all the rose stands! Walking around, I was just about forgetting where I was, until, in true Catalonian tradition, I stumbled across several stands of the Catalunian-Independence party reminding the people that they wanted Independence.. yup, just in case you’d forgotten…
So if you’re ever in Barcelona around April 23rd, don’t forget to buy your loved ones roses or books! La Rambla Catalunya (not to be confused with las Ramblas!!) is the main street where everyone goes!