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The city overflows with the bright colors of roses mixed with yellow and red Catalan ribbons. Photo: Valentina Mercuri
The city overflows with the bright colors of roses mixed with yellow and red Catalan ribbons. Photo: Valentina Mercuri

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Love is in the air in Barcelona

Roses, books and lovers: Every year on 23 April, Barcelona is filled with them. The day is La Diada de Sant Jordi, a curious mixture of World Book Day and a uniquely Catalan take on Valentine’s Day.

La Diada de Sant Jordi (or Saint George’s Day) is an unforgettably romantic experience in Barcelona and Catalonia; a day on which the city overflows with the bright colors of roses mixed with yellow and red Catalan ribbons, happy couples and (usually) plenty of sunshine.

Roses, books and lovers. Photo: Valentina MercuriSo where does this seemingly odd combination of Saint George and love come from? It turns out that Saint Jordi is not only the patron saint of Catalonia but also the patron saint of lovers in Catalonia. Since medieval times, the patriotic people of Barcelona have commemorated the romantic legend of St. George slaying the dragon with a visit to the rose fair or “lovers’ fair” in Barcelona’s Chapel of Sant Jordi.

These days, on 23 April, it is customary for couples to exchange gifts: a book for the men and a rose for the women. Throughout the city, book and rose stalls are set up in the streets, attracting large crowds – in particular on La Rambla, Barcelona’s classic boulevard – which stretches from Plaça de Catalunya to the port.

This is also the day on which Catalan bookshops and publishers report their highest sales and many famous authors can be spotted signing their books in the street stalls, surrounded by a sea of colorful roses.

La Diada de Sant Jordi is bursting with passion, patriotism and history, honoring the legend of Saint George, the brave knight who killed a dragon to rescue a princess. It is the most romantic day of all in one of Europe’s most beautiful cities.

 

Text: Isabelle Kliger

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