The legend of Sant Jordi in Catalonia: the day of the roses and the books in Barcelona

Sant Jordi 2012Paradas de libros en Las RamblasRosas Sant Jordi Rambla
According to popular tradition, Sant Jordi was a Roman soldier and was born in the 3rd century in Capadocia in Turkey. This Saint, who was under the orders of the emperor Diocletian, refused to carry out the emperor's edict to persecute all Christians and for this reason he was martyred and decapitated by his companions. In the eastern part of the Roman Empire, he soon became venerated as a martyr and shortly after this, fantastic stories related to him began to appear. The most popular legend in Catalonia about Sant Jordi tells that at Montblanc, in Conca de Barberà, there was a terrible dragon which viciously attacked men and beasts. To pacify it, lots were drawn and a person was chosen to be given as a sacrifice to the monster. One day, the misfortune fell on the king's daughter, who would have died in the beast's claws if it had not been for the arrival of a handsome knight (Sant Jordi) who challenged the dragon and killed it. This same legend, although with slight variations, is told as a popular legend in England, Portugal and Greece. The main event is the exchange of gifts between sweethearts, loved ones and colleagues. Historically, men gave women roses, and women gave men a book to celebrate the occasion—"a rose for love and a book forever." In modern times, the mutual exchange of books is also customary. Roses have been associated with this day since medieval times, but the giving of books is a more recent tradition originating in 1923, when a bookseller started to promote the holiday as a way to commemorate the nearly simultaneous deaths of Miguel Cervantes and William Shakespeare on 23 April 1616. Barcelona is the publishing capital of both Catalan and Spanish languages and the combination of love and literacy was quickly adopted. In Barcelona's most visited street, La Rambla, and all over Catalonia, thousands of stands of roses and makeshift bookstalls are hastily set up for the occasion. By the end of the day, some four million roses and 800,000 books will have been purchased. Most women will carry a rose in hand, and half of the total yearly book sales in Catalonia take place on this occasion. The sardana, the national dance of Catalonia, is performed throughout the day in the Plaça Sant Jaume in Barcelona. Many book stores and cafes host readings by authors (including 24-hour marathon readings of Cervantes' "Don Quixote"). Street performers and musicians in public squares add to the day's atmosphere. 23 April is also the only day of the year when the Palau de la Generalitat, Barcelona's principal government building, is open to the public. The interior is decorated with roses to honour Sant Jordi (Saint George). If you are thinking about coming to Barcelona during these days, do not hesitate to ask Hotel Curious. We will be glad to give you our best rates! We wish you enjoy this beautiful day. Source: Ajuntament de Barcelona

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