23rd April, Sant Jordi. Find out why you'll want to be in Barcelona.
There's one day every year when travellers and visitors to Barcelona feel like they're on another planet. And not just any old planet? but a planet of good vibes. This is a day when Barcelona is suffused with a different atmosphere and it seems that everybody heads to the streets. If it were the other way round and it was an alien who came to visit us on 23rd April, his report would read something like this: "a planet heavily populated by earthlings walking around with flowers and smiles on their faces; while others sit in little huts decked out with flags and scribble strange signs in books".
So if you're planning on coming to Barcelona and your visit coincides with 23rd April, you're in luck! You'll experience the Book and Rose Day on what is arguably the Barcelonians' most cherished day.
But first of all, let's get a bit of background information. Sant Jordi (Saint George) is the patron saint of Catalonia, and on his feast day we celebrate two major universal themes: love and culture. Sounds good right from the start doesn't it? LOVE and CULTURE. Just imagine!
Since the 15th century, men have given a rose to their loved one. And by the look of all the roses you'll see in the streets, there are thousands of people in love in Barcelona! In 1930 the custom of giving a book to mark Book Day was introduced as part of the Sant Jordi celebrations.
The epicentre of all this devoted love and love of culture is, of course, La Rambla, the city's iconic boulevard, followed closely by Passeig de Gràcia and Rambla Catalunya. Lined with dozens of stalls selling books and roses, the locals queue up to get their favourite author to sign a copy. You'll also find stalls selling books and roses all over the city.
During this culturefest, there are also poetry recitals, book readings, popular celebrations with performances of the circle dance, the sardana, processions of giant figures, gegants, sea shanties and a whole host of activities? there's even an official proclamation and literary discussion in the beautiful great hall, the Saló de Cent, inside Barcelona City Hall, which is open to the public on 23rd. And a couple of days earlier (14th and 15th April), the kids are the true stars of Sant Jordi at a book festival specially for them, "Món Llibre".
The dragon and the rose are central to the legend of Saint Jordi. In fact, they play such an important role that throughout history many places in the city have left the imprint of these two elements in their buildings. They are waiting to be discovered.
You can also savour Sant Jordi in Barcelona. Barcelona's bakers have joined in the celebrations with a delicious bread to commemorate the day: pa de Sant Jordi. The loaf resembles the Catalan coat of arms with the four red stripes made from a dough containing sobrassada sausage and walnuts on a yellow background made from parmesan cheese dough. The result is a soft, flavorsome loaf you can enjoy at your dinner table on Sant Jordi day.
Do you want to experience Sant Jordi like a local? Well here are the steps you have to follow:
- Go out into the street and succumb to the siren song of the rose stalls. Tradition dictates that men give a deep-red rose to their beloved. But Barcelonians, who are totally in love with love, also give them to their daughters, mothers, friends, work colleagues?
- Make a list of the books you want. It's the perfect day to get a copy as the booksellers offer special reductions.
- Search for your favourite authors and make a note of where they'll be signing books. Arm yourself with a little patience and join the queue to have your book signed.
- Catch the city's infectious and cheerful spirit.
As you can see, there are lots of reasons. But if we had to choose, we'd stick with just one: it's not every day you visit a city where 99% of the inhabitants are walking around with a smile on their face.
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