Other | Traditions: Catalonia & La Diada de Sant Jordi
La Diada de Sant Jordi is a very much heartfelt festival in Catalonia, a place which Formula 3 championships visit numerous times every year. "sebmotors.info" is going to inaugurate this "other" section of the website by taking a look at a very particular local holiday which actually infected the whole world!
Sant Jordi | ©2021 Generalitat de Catalunya
Where does it originate from? Saint George is not only the Saint patron of England, but he was also warmly celebrated in Aragon first and then in Catalonia, too. La Diada de Sant Jordi is on the day in which the Saint is remembered, April 23rd and its origins come from La Llegenda de Sant Jordi, the Catalan version of the Legend of Saint George and the Dragon.
In this latter one is narrated that after a fierce duel between the knight and the dragon, the beast fell down pierced by an iron sword. From the blood falling from the dragon, a rosebush flourished in that precise point once each April. This is the explanation given by the oral tradition on exchanging flowers every April 23rd.
Llibres de Croissants, typical sweets for the occasion |
| © Brunells' Instagram Page https://www.instagram.com/p/CN7KJRBBSIS/
How do Catalans celebrate it? The main custom is - in fact - the exchange of roses and books between loved ones. Men give women roses, and women give men a book “una rosa per l'amor i un llibre per sempre” (a rose for love and a book forever).
The addition of books is actually more recent: in 1923, a bookseller started to promote the holiday as a way to commemorate the nearly simultaneous deaths of Miguel de Cervantes and William Shakespeare on April 23rd, 1616 (both authors died on this date, but not on the same day, as Spain and England kept different calendars at that time).
Casa Batlló, Barcelona |
| © Helena Pozo Fos' Pinterest Page https://www.pinterest.es/helenapozofos/
How is that celebrated in the streets? In Barcelona's most visited street, La Rambla, and all over Catalonia, thousands of stands of roses and bookstalls are set up for the occasion. By the end of the day, some six million roses and 800,000 books will have been purchased. Most women will carry a rose in hand, and half of the total yearly book sales in Catalonia take place on this occasion.
The sardana, the national dance of Catalonia, is performed throughout the day in the Plaça Sant Jaume in Barcelona. Many bookstores and cafés host readings by authors (including 24-hour marathon readings of different classics of Catalan literature or Spanish literature). Street performers and musicians in public squares add to the day's atmosphere.
April 23rd is also one of only three days a year when the Palau de la Generalitat, Barcelona's principal government building, is open to the public. The interior is decorated with roses to honour Saint George.
2021 billboard of UNESCO World Book and Copyright Day | © Unsplash
UNESCO World Book and Copyright Day. As time progressed, this Catalan tradition happened to be exported to the rest of the world. So much that UNESCO officially declared April 23rd the “UNESCO World Book and Copyright Day”, in order to promote reading, publishing, and copyright.
Icon of St. George Martyr in the Chiesa di San Giorgio Extra Moenia, Reggio Calabria, Italy
Who was St. George for real? He was a martyr of the pre-Constantinian persecutions and died in 303 A.D.. It is still debated whether that happened in Nicomedia (now İzmit, Turkey) or in Lod, Palestine, Israel. This second place is the place which gave birth to his mother Polychronia, and which now treasures his bones. More specifically, in the Church named after him. About him it is known little enough to still venerate him for the way he gave out his own life for the others.