Monday, April 26, 2010

Diada de Sant Jordi - Valentines Day in Barcelona

On Friday, April 23 we celebrated Diada de Sant Jordi, the patron Saint of Catalonia. In US terms, it was Valentines Day here. But Sant Jordi Day is celebrated very differently here than back at home. While at home in many ways it’s considered a Hallmark holiday, here it is a tradition. And while there have been some increased in commercialism here surrounding Diada de Sant Jordi, it is not nearly the commercialism that we have at home.

Sant Jordi, or Saint George, was a knight who allegedly slayed a dragon that was about to eat a helpless princess. When he slayed the dragon he cut off his head. In the blood a rosebush grew and from there Saint George was said to have taken the most beautiful rose to bestow upon his new love. This holiday has been celebrated since the middle ages to celebrate chivalry and romance.

Although Diada de Sant Jordi is not a public holiday it is still considered to be one of the most popular. Street areas like Rambla Catalunya and Las Ramblas were absolutely jam packed full of booths selling roses and books. Books you say? You can understand why there would be such a big demand for roses, it being the Spanish version of Valentines Day, but books? Well with Diada de Sant Jordi, the man gives the woman the rose and she gives him a book. On this day over 4 million roses and 400,000 books are typically sold! But still what does books have to do with romance? Well this is where the commercialism sort of comes into play. In 1923 Diada de Sant Jordi was merged with International Book Day to celebrate the anniversary of the almost simultaneous deaths of Miguel de Cervantes and William Shakespeare. Barcelona is also the publishing capital of the Spanish speaking world. One article I read stated “don’t affairs of the heart inevitably lead to exchanges of letters, books, poetry?” which makes sense as to why these to holiday merged. As just a random note here, there are a number of architectural dedications to Sant Jordi, one of the most famous being the Casa Batllo on the Block of Discord, which was designed by Gaudi. The scaly roof and bones of the dragon’s victims framing the windows are telltale signs that this is a building dedicated to Sant Jordi.

Flower stalls and special cakes made just for today

More flowers.  And even the bread is festive today!

Stalls lined up as far as the eye can see along Rambla Catalunya

Aidan’s school had a big Sant Jordi celebration complete with a book fair and roses made by the elementary school children (FYI, it was the only rose I received that day… ahem…Josh). I knew that Aidan’s class was doing something to celebrate the day but I was unaware of what they were doing until the day before. For Carnaval they had done a parade and so I had guessed that they would do something similar. I was pleasantly surprised to find out they were performing a traditional Catalan dance done on Diada de Sant Jordi.

And I must say, it brought tears to my eyes it was just so freaking cute!! He was partnered with his friend Sophie who we’ve gotten to know a little bit in the last few weeks (he has his first crush on Sophie’s older sister Hannah as well). Just loved loved loved this and it was such a fantastic way to kick off the weekend!   To view the video click on the link:

Oh and before I forget, Ricky Schroder sighting at the school as well. Don’t remember if I have confirmed this in previous posts and if you recall in November I thought I had a sighting by the school. Have since confirmed that he does live in Barcelona (not sure if in the city or the burbs, my guess is burbs) and his kids go to Aidan’s school. And should I ever become friends with him, I promise you Ricky, I am not stalking you!!

More posts to come from a very fun weekend!

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