La Diada de Sant Jordi
One of Catalan’s favourite days of the year is around the corner. Next week it is Sant Jordi’s Day, or in Catalan, La Diada de Sant Jordi. This date, 23rd April, is essentially the Catalan version of Valentine’s Day, but with a twist.
The Legend of Sant Jordi
Our story features Sant Jordi, a dragon and, of course, a princess. The legend says there was a horrible dragon that had a whole village frightened. The inhabitants of this village would feed the dragon with their own animals until they ran out of sheep and cows to give this terrifying creature. To avoid the dragon burning them all, the villagers decided that they would draw lots to see what person would be given to the dragon to eat. Bad fortune wanted it to be the princess, which the king of the village accepted. It was then when Sant Jordi turned up and killed the dragon saving the princess. They say the dragon’s blood soaked into the ground and lots of red roses sprang from it.
World Book Day
An interesting fact is that UNESCO declared 23rd April as the World Book Day. This is because of one of those funny coincidences of life: both of the greatest literary minds in history, Shakespeare and Miguel de Cervantes, died on this date in the year 1616. Catalan booksellers took advantage of this coincidence and made books a part of the Sant Jordi celebrations.
On this date, men and women exchange gifts: roses thanks to the Legend of Sant Jordi and books in celebration of World Book Day. According to tradition, men give roses to the women of their lives (not only their partners, but it could also be their mothers, sisters or just their friends), and women give books to men. This is a very old tradition that has, as it usually does in these cases, religious origins. Luckily, nowaday’s society is rejuvenating these traditions and being gifted a book is no longer something exclusive to men.
Sant Jordi’s Day isn’t an official festivity in Catalonia, meaning all businesses are open as usual, but there’s definitely a great atmosphere of celebration in the towns and cities. In Barcelona, for example, walking down Las Ramblas on this day, you will see lots of stalls selling roses, books or both, and the streets are plenty of people even if it is a normal working day.
Celebrating La Diada de Sant Jordi in Manchester
We may be far from home, but that only encourages us to bring all Catalan traditions closer to the people of Manchester. Here at Tast, we will always do something special to celebrate everything related to our home and our culture. So next Tuesday, we will have a delicious special dessert created just for the occasion, we will do a book raffle amongst our guests for a chance win a copy of the Manchester Cookbook, Second Helpings and a few more surprises for our guests too. We will also be hosting a book exchange on this day, so feel free to bring a book you don’t want anymore and pick one that another guest already read and loved.