Sant Jordi is the patron saint of Catalonia, the Spanish province in which Barcelona is situated and of which Barcelona is the capital. Unlike the other 150 saints’ days (only a slight exageration), today is not an actual holiday. Instead, it is a day when the people of Catalonia flock to the streets to buy roses and books, a strange combination. The modern custom is for men to buy roses for the women in their life, not just romantic partners, and for the women to buy books for the men in their life.
The main streets are literally filled with book and rose vendors. Women of all ages walk around carrying roses and hoards of people stop to browse, read and purchase books. The short version of the rose tradition is that Sant Jordi saved a Catalonian queen’s daughter from a dragon. When he slay the dragon, instead of blood, the dragon’s wound sprouted red roses. The book tradition likely stemmed from a smart book seller wanting to make some extra cash. April 23 (1616) is the day that both William Shakespeare and Miguel de Cervantes died, the 23rd of April has officially been named the Day of the Book. The festival took root in Catalonia as it became confused with the saints day. A more complete history of the tradition is here.
The people of Catalonia don’t celebrate Valentine’s day and also don’t veer from the traditions, there were no heart shaped boxes of chocolates to be seen. Although we’re far from being Catalonians, we decided to follow suit. I have a lovely red rose chilling out in a Sigg bottle on the counter and Jamu has a riveting Ian Rankin novel awaiting him. What can I say, the English language book selection was less than fanastic.
As a result the streets were even more colourful and filled with people. It was literally shoulder to shoulder down Las Ramblas for most of the afternoon. Today I pulled out the better camera. I’m becoming much more interested in figuring out how the camera works. I have ideas of how I want photos to look, now I need to learn how to execute them. There is a full set of photos here.