Today, the entire northeastern Spanish region of Cataluña is celebrating Diada de Sant Jordi or El Dia de la Rosa (The Day of the Rose) or El Dia del Llibre (The Day of the Book), involving traditions similar to those of the Anglo-Saxon Valentine’s Day. It’s a noble and romantic day honoring knights, damsels in distress and those ever common, dragons.
As legend has it, the Feast of Sant Jordi began when a Roman soldier who was born in the 3rd century in Cappadocia, Turkey, was martyred for not carrying out the emperor’s edict to persecute all Christians. Now, add some really gossipy townspeople to the mix who start spinning tall tales about our heroic soldier, and 5 centuries later, watch how suddenly Jordi becomes known for slaying some mysterious dragon determined to take the life of a king’s daughter. And right when his heavy sword pierces the tough, scaly green skin of the mighty beast, the blood that falls from his blade, hits the ground, and in its place, grew one single red rose. (Flickr photo by HAMED MASOUMI)
Similar to Saint Valentines Day, on Sant Jordi, it is now customary to give anyone of the female persuasion a single rose, while men are given a book in honor of both William Shakespeare Cervante’s death on April 23, 1616. Seem a bit odd to put these two events together? Historically, the the entire book gig wasn’t traditionally recognized until 1923, when a bookseller decided to that these two legendary authors should be recognized for their work. Hence, the merging of two traditions.
In all honesty, I love this holiday. Despite the recent introduction of alien roses dyed in various blue, orange and rainbow hues, valued at anywhere between 2 and 6 euros a piece, I can’t help but bask in vibrant energy of the day. Walk into any main square in Cataluña, and you’ll have a field day watching people peruse stands of books and roses, weighing their options, chatting up their friends, and generally enjoying the beautiful spring day. Plus, it’s a fabulous excuse to pair the day with a romantic Barcelona food and wine tour!
Happy Dragon Hunting!
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