Saint George’s Day. Between traditions, culture and legend.
21 Apr 2021

Saint George’s Day. Between traditions, culture and legend.


During the celebration of Sant Jordi (St. George’s Day) there are those who discover an author, those who fall in love with a book or those who are moved by a bouquet of roses. Few popular celebrations are so multitudinous and so deeply rooted. In the tradition of giving roses on Sant Jordi’s Day, marked by legend, the “day of the book” was added in 1926. In 1995, the festival crossed borders when the UNESCO General Conference decreed 23 April as International Book Day.

All this has turned the day into a very simple ritual. Strolling through the streets and squares of towns and cities, one can buy a rose or a book (or both) either for one’s own consumption or as a gift. The literary incorporation ended up mixing with Catalan traditions to create a day of great public acceptance.

Numerous book and rose stalls crowd the different streets and squares which, this year, due to the Covid19 pandemic, will have a more restricted and distributed offer in order to control the capacity and avoid crowds.

The origin of this festival lies in a mixture of traditions and customs from different periods, coinciding with the fact that Sant Jordi has been the official patron saint of Catalonia since 1456. There was already a medieval custom of celebrating the “Rose Fair”.

The celebration of the feast of Sant Jordi is framed in an intense week of cultural activities. This year the day will be a celebration of proximity because of the measures and areas of confinement. The different cities and towns have had to adapt to health and safety measures to avoid crowds. In the big cities, both the activities and the book and rose stalls have been redistributed, relocated to the different neighbourhoods and districts of each town for better capacity control.

Is been told in the legend that the most beloved princess of the town, was given to a dragon which frightened them, because there were no sheep enough to feed him. Saint George, valiant knight, was in the vicinity of the village and after hearing about the news, unable to allow that, faced the beast. He struck him with a sword and wounded the dragon fatally. Blood gushed from the wound that, at the feet of the knight, became a bright puddle where precious red roses bloomed.

Here was where the tradition of giving, every April 23, the day of saint knighted, a red rose to every beloved woman, was born. To this was added, years later, the present of a book to men, in commemoration of the celebration of World Book Day in honour of the death of two major milestones of literary history, William Shakespeare and Miguel de Cervantes, dead on April 23, also according to the legend.

Generations of parents and children have heard about the legendary knight and the dragon killing, but if there is a land that traditionally has taken the reins of the festival, that has been Catalonia. In our lands, each 23 of this month, although not listed as a national holiday, the crowd is organized to go out and expose, on a claim way somehow, liveliness and brilliance of a celebration that combines tradition, culture and gastronomy typical. Maximum exponent of a unique day, the city of Barcelona assumes the primary role of the historical date and includes in its most emblematic streets –Las Ramblas and surroundings-, hundreds of stands where buying roses and stalls where not only books but also their authors, are the main focus of attention of visitors and of the people of this small country. Activities related to cultural leisure, such as the mythical reading of the legend of Saint George, concerts, literary events in libraries and a long list of events, come together in the Catalan calendar every April 23.

And while the popularity of this feast is established in our community on the Mediterranean, there are many countries that pay honour to Saint George and which have in this saint, its patron. Within the Spanish geography, communities such as Aragon, Caceres or Santurce (Vizcaya) celebrate, in a different way of Catalan people (also adopted by the Balearic Islands and Valencia), the sanctification of this knight, who carried the recovery of these lands to the Christians against Muslims in times of the reconquest thousand years ago. But if there is a country that pays tribute to its patron and which has the greatest international impact of this celebration, this is England. Most important festival, April 23 became the day of national pride for the English. An essential date in order to imbibe good English culture, attending to any of the sports tournaments of football, cricket or rugby organized as part of the cultural celebrations of one of the oldest traditions of England, or coming near to English food festivals where you can taste traditional sweets, cheeses and beers; and attend to theatrical performances coincide with the celebrations for the anniversary of the death of Shakespeare, whom the English people also pays tribute.

Who was going to tell to this gentleman, Roman military and Greek and Turkish origin, he would end up becoming a hero of a legend, despite actually being a martyr who was beheaded for not renege on his strong Christian faith.

At the moment, although the true story treats him sowe will continue living this feast with the cultural connotation that after years and years, has settled in our lands and has taken a toll on the lives of people in each of these regions that celebrate, as well as they know, the feast; in a festive atmosphere where the cultural values and feelings of a nation to defend a lifestyle and kindness and sociability of people, come together.

Avant Grup, transport service supplier with different cultural and sporting entities of our country, echoes the traditions and culture to coincide with a Saint George’s Day where the protagonists are the book and the rose….

It’s a good experience to share a bus tour or visit any town accompanied by a book….