Saturday, April 24, 2010

23 April 2010 – La Diada de Sant Jordi

As I’ve probably mentioned multiple times in the past year, Barcelona loves holidays. Not only do they happily celebrate all the Spanish national holidays, but they revel in the Catalonia festivities (didn’t you know, Catalonia is not Spain?). They welcome any excuse that affords a day off to spend some time with their family. For example, on September 11 each year they celebrate the 1714 Siege of Barcelona…a battle they lost [According to Wikipedia, there have been 8 sieges of Barcelona. I’m surprised they don’t have holidays for all of them]!

Today marks another holiday, celebrated in multiple countries but not quite like in Barcelona: la Diada de Sant Jordi or St. George’s Day. Due to the name of the holiday, I imagine that there should be some religious ties to the holiday; instead the holiday now serves as Barcelona’s equivalent to Valentine’s Day…only much cooler.

As a first time Sant Jordi celebrator, I’d describe the holiday in three words: roses, books, and Catalonia. For starters, there are literally make-shift booths selling roses on nearly every single street corner with some intersections having four competing rose stands. This high number of vendors is required to fulfill the demand—4 million roses. Unlike Valentine’s where you only need to buy flowers for your one special lady, for Sant Jordi I was advised to buy roses for just about every woman I have ever met. As a result, my evening walk was constantly interrupted by the rose vendors, profiling me as a man who needed to buy some roses.

While the men are busy buying flowers, the women are supposed to repay the favor in books. Yes, books. Isn’t that great? I never have heard of a greater holiday, a holiday where you give books. In theory, women should reciprocate by gifting books, though I know of no guy who actually received a book. Nevertheless, small card tables of books litter the city. Sales are high, accounting for half the annual sales of books; however the sales are generated by people buying books for themselves. At least that was the case for me and my friends.

Now, I’m not a big fan of holidays. In reality, I only like Thanksgiving because there is no obligation beyond eating. However, Spain wants to change my view, enticing me with holidays revolving around books. Then again, shouldn’t we always be excited to spend time with our families or to buy a book? Do we really need to celebrate the death of a guy who died 1,800 years ago? Then again, if it permits a day off, I’ll celebrate just about anything.

Wikipedia Entry (English)

Wikipedia Entry (Catalan)

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