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The Legend Behind the Catalan Valentine’s Day: Sant Jordi and the Dragon

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The Legend Behind the Catalan Valentine’s Day: Sant Jordi and the Dragon

Feliç Sant Jordi!
Every year we are excited when it comes to this unique and special day that is only celebrated in the Catlonia region of Spain. Sant Jordi or Saint George’s Day is sort of a local Valentine's Day with a special tradition surrounding roses and books... and of course a dragon. Let's see what this tradition is all about!

What is the buzz about Diada de Sant Jordi, why do people give roses and books to each other, and what’s the story behind it?

There are several traditions forming the Catalan Culture. The food, the music, the drinks, the festivals, the architecture… everything together is part of a lifestyle. As every year, and as a big part of this tradition, on the 23rd of April is Diada de Sant Jordi, the patron of Catalonia. This is one of the most important celebrations here but… Do you know the whole story behind it?

The Legend of Sant Jordi

According to legend, there was a terrifying dragon located in the village of Montblanc, southwest of Barcelona. Everyone was angry and sad about this dragon because the dragon was always hungry and therefore, a big threat to the people. So they gave him one animal a day to keep it from attacking the village. However, one day the dragon ate the last of the animals but was still hungry. To satisfy the hunger, the dragon started eating the people of the village. In order to prevent a big massacre, the people of the village decided to randomly choose a person every day to be sacrificed to the beast. The king was trying to find the strongest men to kill the dragon, but their fate was always the same: another victim for the dragon.

One day, the king’s nightmare turned into reality and the princess’s name came up. Although that made the King very sad, he desperately sent her to the dragon. But just when the dragon was about to eat the princess, a brave and handsome knight, known as Sant Jordi, rode into town. He fought with the dragon in its cove and despite the furious fire of the dragon, Sant Jordi killed the beast with his spear, saving the princess’s life.

From the blood of the dragon, there grew a rose bush, and Sant Jordi took a red rose and gave it to the princess as a sign of his love. Everybody in the village was very happy the dragon was dead and they lived peacefully ever after. (Source)

​Interestingly, the event was first held on the 7th of October 1926 in the whole of Spain. However, after some time it faded in the rest of the country and is now only celebrated in Catalonia. Later the celebration was moved to the 23rd of April as this is the day the famous writers Miguel de Cervantes (Spanish author of Don Quixote) and William Shakespeare (no introduction needed) died and therefore it coincided with the World Book Day, which is the reason for the gifting of books on this day.

This is the reason behind the tradition where men give a rose to their loved ones whether it’s their girlfriend, wife, sister, or mother while women give books to men. This tradition has developed into a huge event in the city of Barcelona where bookstores open street Pop-Ups and a lot of famous and new authors do book signings over several days. Also people don't always stay true to tradition by giving roses and books to their friends and family regardless of gender.

Now that you know the legend, it is time to live it by yourself!

Brace yourselves because you will see every street full of people, books, and flowers. Visit La Rambla and Plaça Sant Jaume, where the largest concentration of people and activities take place; Go to see the outside of Casa Batlló full of red roses and other activities such as street festivals that the municipalities and companies may organise. And just keep walking around to see Barcelona as you have never seen it before!

Once again, Happy Sant Jordi!