Books and Roses… a Tale of Sant Jordi’s Day

by | Feb 11, 2022 | Global | 1 comment

Drunk in Love

Two years ago in April, I had just returned from the “Drunk in Love” dance festival that was held in Rennes, France. I lived in Andorra at the time, and there were no buses back to the mountains when we landed, so I had made plans to stay with a dear love and friend of mine. He was the partner of my dance teacher and we had all traveled to France together for this festival. They lived in Montblanc.

The next day, my friend had to run an errand which meant about a 25-minute drive from the top of the mountain to the well-preserved medieval town below. When he returned, he had two roses, a book, and three bookmarks – a rose for his boyfriend, a rose for me, a book for himself, and a bookmark with a rose on it for each of us.

It was Sant Jordi’s day!

This was the very first time that I had ever received a rose on this very special day in Catalonia.

Sant Jordi (Saint George) has been the patron saint of Catalonia since the 16th century, and he is thought to have been alive in the 1300s.

Sant Jordi’s Day and Dragon Food – What’s for Dinner

Legend has it that there was a dragon who had overtaken the village of Montblanc and ate all the nearby animals.

"Old Books" by Myriams-Photos on Pixabay
“Old Books” by Myriams – Photos on Pixabay

Eventually, the dragon ran out of animals to eat, so he began to eat the local people. While the king was concerned about the dragon, it wasn’t until the dragon had attempted eating the princess of the village that he decided to take action.

Many men tried to save the princess from the dragon, but the dragon killed them all.

But when the valiant Sant Jordi faced the dragon, he was the only one who could save her by slaying this ferocious beast in the belly with his powerful sword.

After St Jordie had slain the dragon and saved the princess, roses came pouring out of the belly of the beast. Some say that Sant Jordi later married the princess.

What Do Cervantes, Shakespeare, and Sant Jordi Have in Common?

A few centuries later, the famous Spanish author, Miguel Cervantes, died on April 22, 1610. Then in 1926, Spain declared April 23rd the day of the celebration of books, but this date also coincided with Shakespeare’s death anniversary and World Book Day. The day was eventually declared Sant Jordi’s Day by the Catalan province of Spain.

Although it’s not exactly known when the tradition began in Catalonia, for centuries lovers have been exchanging books and roses in the name of love and in honor of Sant Jordi in Catalonia. Traditionally, the man was to give his love a rose and the woman to give hers a book.

In modern times, on the days preceding this celebration of lovers and books, you will find shops selling books at every corner of the village or city. Men and women exchange books and roses with their beloved as they choose.

Smell the Roses

On Sant Jordi’s day itself, you will find La Rambla in Barcelona, and every other major boulevard at that, lined with beautiful red roses and endless stacks of books.

"Sant Jordi's Day Bookmark from 2019" by Marjorie Jean Vera
“Sant Jordi’s Day Bookmark from 2019” by Marjorie Jean Vera

So while it is unknown how the lover’s celebrations, books, and the patron Saint of Catalonia had ultimately merged, it is a gorgeous celebration and a wonderful day of the year to take a stroll through the city or village to peruse books and enjoy the sights and scents of beautiful freshly cut long-stemmed red roses.

When I had finally returned to Andorra, once I made my way back to the office at the consulting firm where I used to work, I had another beautiful long-stemmed red rose awaiting me at my desk.

My awesome German boss had gifted each of us ladies at the office a rose to commemorate this special day. Although Andorra is not a part of Spain or present-day Catalonia, many of the traditions are shared between the two regions.

What are the traditions which celebrate the love you have come across during your travels? Do you celebrate anything in particular? Comment below to get the conversation started! 

by: Marjorie Vera