The Perfect Holiday in Barcelona
If you can visit Barcelona for one day, and you can choose which one, which is the best date?
April 23rd is the Saint George’s Day, also known as “La Diada de Sant Jordi”. Unlike many other holidays, it is a working day, and that gives it part of its magic.
The tradition of La Diada de Sant Jordi, or St. George’s Day, began in the 15th century, referred to as Love Day. It was customary during this time to present a loved one with a red rose, symbolic of blood. The idea to formalize this date as a celebratory festival was first proposed in 1436 to the Catalan Parliament. The proposal was adopted two decades later, in 1456. From the 15th century onward, St. George’s Day has been considered Catalonia’s equivalent to Valentine’s Day.
The Barcelona International Exposition took place in 1929. That year, on St. George’s Day, booksellers decided to venture out onto the streets and set up stalls showcasing their books. It was then that they proposed the 23rd of April to be recognized as Book Day. Today, this has evolved into World Book Day. From that point forward, it became customary to give books as gifts along with roses.
Books and culture taking center stage at a party is truly a wonderful sight. Around St. George’s Day, children of all different age groups are encouraged to write stories and poems. The Floral Games (Jocs Florals), a national competition, are held to celebrate these young authors. The Floral Games, considered the oldest literary contest in Europe, were initially celebrated on the 1st of May since 1324, but the event was subsequently moved to the 23rd of April. Since then, it has become a day of culture and books. One of the most exciting aspects of this celebration is that you can find your favorite authors signing books right on the street that day.
Xavier Sala-i-Martín, professor of the Columbia University and one of the most influential economists in the world, classifies April 23rd as the perfect holiday. He explains that unlike Valentine’s Day, by April 23rd, roses have already bloomed, eliminating the need to import them from other countries. He also notes that while the brain struggles to accurately assign economic value to gifts, often underestimating, this is not the case with gifts given on St. George’s Day. Furthermore, he argues that this holiday removes the paradox of gift choice, as we already know what to give, a sharp contrast to the indecision often experienced during Christmas.
St. George’s Day is a remarkable day in Catalonia. If you’ve never been to Barcelona on the 23rd of April, you should come, breathe, and enjoy this extraordinarily special holiday.
Please note, the modern celebration of Sant Jordi in Catalonia is not strictly a romantic event like Valentine’s Day, where a rose is gifted to your wife and a book to your husband. Instead, the tradition has evolved into a celebration of friendship and cultural exchange, free of any obligations or complications. It’s now commonplace to give books to both boys and girls, and similarly, roses can be given to both genders. Although it’s less traditional to present boys with roses, it’s certainly not unheard of in this inclusive and evolving celebration.
Did you know that Casa Batlló in Barcelona tells the story of Saint George, or Sant Jordi as he is known in Catalonia, slaying the dragon? The architectural details of this iconic building symbolize different parts of the tale. The undulating roof represents the dragon’s back, and the top-right window signifies its eye. The turret and cross at the very top depict the triumphant sword that Sant Jordi used to defeat the beast. Further down, the top-middle balcony embodies the rose that miraculously bloomed from the dragon’s blood. The remaining balconies, designed to appear as though they are adorned with masks, symbolize the townspeople who had been living in fear of the dragon.