What is the origin of Saint George's Day? Why is Saint George's Day celebrated?
Sant Jordi's Day is celebrated on 23 April. It is a public holiday - but a working day - that coincides with the patron saint's day of Catalonia and whose origins intermingle traditions from different eras.
Sant Jordi's Day is a popular festival in which roses and books take centre stage. Although the date of its celebration, 23 April, coincides with the Day of the Book - established by UNESCO in 1995 to commemorate the anniversary of the death of Miguel de Cervantes and William Shakespeare - Sant Jordi's Day goes far beyond literature.
History of Sant Jordi
- The patron saint Sant Jordi: 23 April is the feast day of Sant Jordi or Saint George. He is said to have been a Roman soldier from Cappadocia who became a martyr as a follower of Christ who confronted Roman theology in the first centuries of our era. The chronicles of these martyrs were read at Christian gatherings on the anniversaries of their deaths.
- Legend of Sant Jordi and the dragon: On the other hand, legend has it that in Montblanc (Tarragona) a ferocious dragon terrorised the population, who offered him human sacrifices to calm his anger. The frightened inhabitants drew lots to select the victims and one day it was the princess's turn. When she was on her way to the dragon, a knight stepped between them and pierced the dragon with his sword. From his blood would sprout a rose bush of red roses from which Sant Jordi would cut a flower to give to the rescued maiden.
Why are roses and books given as gifts on Saint George's Day?
Traditionally in Catalonia, Sant Jordi's Day was similar to Valentine's Day. Men would give their partners a rose, and later it became common for women to give them a book in return. Nowadays, however, these gifts are customary for all loved ones, family or friends, and children can receive one or the other gift regardless of their sex.
On this day, around 6 million roses are sold throughout Catalonia and 1.5 million books, one out of every three copies sold in the region is sold on this day, according to data from Barcelona City Council.