Long, long ago in a time when kings, queens and mighty warriors ruled the Earth, Catalonia’s national hero, St. Jordi, met a dragon.
The rest, as they say, is history … St. Jordi’s Day history.
Slaying the Dragon: The Story Behind St. Jordi’s Day
Mighty St. Jordi (St. George) was not afraid of the dragon. With sword in hand, he charged the scaly beast and plunged his weapon into the dragon. Mortally wounded, the flying fire-breather bled crimson streams. The blood dripped from the beast’s body and spilled onto the soil below.
Legend has it roses grew in the very spot where the dragon’s blood fell, thus commemorating St. Jordi’s victory and (supposedly) immortalizing the rose.
The Rose & The Book: St. Jordi’s Day Tradition
In honor of this victory Catalan sweethearts do a gift exchange every April 23. Men give women roses and women give their men books. Barcelona’s Las Ramblas is the epicenter of St. Jordi’s Day — thousands of roses are for sale on this day, as well as thousands of books.
Though the roses have long been a tradition in Catalonia, books didn’t become part of the celebration until the early 20th-century. It’s said that half of all yearly book sales in Catalonia take place on St. Jordi’s Day.
The Catalan Flag
You’ll see plenty of the Catalan flag during St. Jordi’s Day — it’s known as the senyera. The flag is a symbol of Catalunya, and of Catalan pride.
According to one of the many zealous Catalan legends, the design of the flag (four red stripes across a yellow background) was borne during a battle in which a Catalan hero’s shield bore four streaks of blood.
Less sensational (and more historical sources) say the flag originated in Catalonia or Aragon somewhere between the 11th and 13th century.
The Significance of St. Jordi’s Day
St. Jordi’s Day is the Catalan equivalent of Valentine’s Day, but with a much more amazing back story and a distinct sense of regional pride. Bakeries are filled with St. Jordi’s Day treats, neighborhoods are speckled with rose vendors and there’s an overall sense of excitement.
St. Jordi’s Day is much bigger than April 23, though:
- Jordi is one the most popular Catalan names for boys.
- Gaudí supposedly designed the facade of Casa Batllo according to the legend of St. Jordi and the dragon.
- Stone reliefs and sculptures of St. Jordi and the dragon are dotted throughout Barcelona.
- There are random references to St. Jordi and the dragon on plaques and points of interest throughout the city.
St. Jordi’s Day or Valentine’s Day? Vote!
We think St. Jordi’s Day reigns supreme over Valentine’s Day. What do you think? Cast your vote in our SJD v. VD survey showdown:
St. George & Dragon Photo Credit: Esplugues de Llobregat City Hall, Flickr Creative Commons
Roses Photo Credit: Stanley Wood, Flickr Creative Commons
Pastries Photo Credit: Núria, Flickr Creative Commons
Casa Batlló Photo Credit: Gavin Gilmour, Flickr Creative Commons