Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Sant Jordi

Every year on 23 April, Catalonia celebrates the festival of Sant Jordi. Sant Jordi (Saint George) is the patron saint of many places, including England and Catalonia. George is the one who slew the dragon.  Here in Catalonia his feast day is celebrated as the Day of the Book and the Rose.
The rose represents the blood of the dragon that Sant Jordi slew. Where his blood fell, a red rose grew.
The business about the book is more recent. In the early 20th century, a Barcelona bookseller introduced the idea of the day of the book because Miguel de Cervantes died on 22 April 1616 and William Shakespeare died one day later on 23 April 1616 (which also happened to be his birthday). The idea of the book caught on and the festival has evolved to be one of the nicest holidays of the year.
This is the Catalan version of Valentine's Day in that it is friends and lovers who exchange these gifts -- traditionally, a book for the man and a rose for the woman. But the holiday isn’t just for lovers – the whole family is included and there are almost as many books for children for sale as there are for adults.
The Rambla in Figueres

Les Rambles in Barcelona
photo by Manolo Garcia

In every city, town, and village there is a street or square devoted to the selling of books and roses. In Barcelona you'll find the biggest stretch anywhere, all along the Rambles. Figueres also has a Rambla, even if it is much shorter, and that is where our celebration is held. And as always, on Sant Jordi it was packed from one end to the other.  (No Catalan festival is for the claustrophobic.)

Les Rambles in Barcelona
Photo by Pere Virgili

La Rambla in Figueres
The following day, one newspaper showed a photo of an elderly man, sitting by a window giving a red rose to an elderly woman who was in a wheelchair.  This was the husband of more than 50 years paying his daily visit to his wife who has Alzheimer’s and is in a nursing home and doesn’t remember him or the holiday.   
For about a week before the day, my supermarket always prints out a poem, the winner of a contest, with your receipt. This year’s was:
The streets fill with roses.
And you,
and that book,
are waiting for me on any corner.

(By Cristina Company)

Photo by Pere Virgili

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