La diada de Sant Jordi

fieldnotes_bannerLa diada de Sant Jordi (23 Apr) is St. George’s Day, and April 23rd is also declared by UNESCO as the International Day of the Book, in honor of the traditional birthdays of Miguel de Cervantes (Gregorian calendar) and William Shakespeare.

In 2014, Americans are celebrating La diada de Sant Jordi on April 28th, because of when Easter falls on the calendar this year.

Who is St. George?

Artist: Briton Rivière (1840-1920)

Artist: Briton Rivière (1840-1920)

St. George was a Christian martyr and military saint who is the basis for the legend of ‘St. George and the Dragon’.  As the legend goes, a dragon plagued a town in Libya called Silene, and after offerings of sheep failed to appease the dragon, the citizens drew lots and the lot fell to the King’s daughter to be sacrificed to the dragon.

Although the king pled for her life, it was to no avail. St. George happened to be riding by and making the sign of the cross, he charged the dragon and subdued it. He promised to slay the dragon if the people of Silene would convert to Christianity. A church was built on the spot where the dragon was slain (source).

Perhaps because of this legend, St. George has become a symbol of the chivalrous knight in shining armor who saves the fair maiden.

The Day of the Rose & the Book

While the feast day of St. George is celebrated in many countries, it is considered to be the second most-celebrated holiday in Catalonia, where St. George is the patron saint.  It is also in Catalonia where the tradition began of the “day of the rose and the book”.

In Barcelona, vendors set up stalls selling roses and books each April for the occasion and La diada de Sant Jordi has become a “day for lovers”.  A lady will buy a book for the gentleman she favors and her gentleman presents the lady with a rose (or roses). You can learn more about how books became incorporated into the feast day of St. George here.

Celebrating St. George’s Day

La diada de Sant Jordi is a special holiday in my family. The feast of St. George usually falls on April 23rd, which is my older brother’s birthday (happy birthday bro!).  So, without knowing it, my family had already been celebrating the day in a familial way.

Public domain image

Public domain image

The feast day took on its romantic meaning for me though when my husband and I began courting and the first La diada de Sant Jordi together, he presented me with a long-stemmed rose. He has been faithful every year to remember La diada de Sant Jordi, and it’s become more of a romantic holiday for us than that holiday for lovers that falls in February.

This year will be my second attempt to coax some book suggestions from my husband so I’ll have time to order well in advance of the feast day.

You don’t have to be in a relationship to celebrate La diada de Sant Jordi.  Books and flowers are a great springtime gift.  Roses come in many colors and each color can have a different meaning. Here are some ideas of how you can start your own tradition:

  • Why not surprise a platonic friend with a rose or a book, just to celebrate your friendship?
  • Perhaps you could buy a book for someone who you respect, like a mentor or a teacher?
  • Or a rose for the house-bound neighbor you know?

If you’re shy about presenting flowers to strangers, wait a few more days and start your own May Day tradition of leaving a basket of flowers on a neighbor’s doorstep. It’s such a rewarding experience!

However you choose to celebrate La diada de Sant Jordi, I hope you take time to embrace love and literature this spring and find an opportunity for giving this Easter season.


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