If you happen to be in Barcelona during this annual celebration, you're bound to be curious about what you see! Read on to learn more about the Día of Sant Jordi (Day of Saint George).
While commemorating the death of Sant Jordi, patron saint of Catalunya, this annual celebration has taken on a romantic tone, as sweethearts and loved ones exchange gifts - books for boys and flowers for girls - though the mutual exchange of books has become increasingly popular. Book stalls and flower stands line Barcelona's main shopping streets - especially Las Ramblas - and statistics estimate that 4 million roses and nearly 1 milion books are sold on this one day! Along with the book- and rose-selling, the day is packed with all sorts of other cultural activities, such as book signings, readings by authors, concerts, etc.
Flowers have been associated with the Día de Sant Jordi since medieval times, but the giving of books is a more recent tradition, possibly due to Barcelona's historic role as Spain's top book-publishing hub. Nowadays it's a huge literary festival, as book fairs line Barcelona's main shopping streets. So why the books? Interestingly enough, Sant Jordi's saint day coincides with the 1616 deaths of both Miguel de Cervantes and William Shakespeare. This combination of book-giving and anniversaries of the deaths of two major literary figures led UNESCO to declare April 23rd the International Day of the Book.