I know what you’re thinking: Liz, you’re two months late.
Yes, February 14th, Valentine’s Day, has become an internationally celebrated holiday, but just like American’s call it The Hallmark Holiday, Spaniards refer to it as “El Día de El Corte Inglés” – a quip at the largest department store chain in Spain (think Sears, Nordstrom, Macy’s, REI, and a travel agency all rolled into one).
While Catalan candy and flower shops still capitalize on February 14th,
the real “lovers celebration” takes place on April 23rd.
On this day, women are gifted flowers and men are gifted books in honor of St. George (Sant Jordi) who slayed a dragon to free his beloved princess!
The actual facts of St. Jordi’s slaying story are a bit blurry, but it goes something like this:
Approximately 1800 years ago a tyrant was terrorizing a village in what is now Catalonia, and that tyrant was none other than a fire breathing dragon. To keep their ruler at bay, each day a villager’s name was drawn (probably from a hat) and that person was sacrificed to the dragon.
A logical way to keep the village safe long term….
No one was immune to the daily name drawing, even the princess.
On the day her name was drawn, she swallowed her bitter pill and started her march to the dragon’s den, but just as she was about to be gobbled up, her hero appeared (I’m sorry, were you expecting something else..?).
In an epic battle, Sant Jordi defeated the dragon and watched the blood drain out of his cruel, lifeless body.
Within minutes of the dragon’s death, a rose bush sprouted up where the dragon’s blood had pooled and from that bush Sant Jordi plucked a single rose and presented it to his lady.
Alright, so that’s the story behind the tradition of the flowers.
Fast forward about 1700 years. In 1923 Catalonia wanted to honor Miguel de Cervantes and decided upon a book giving tradition on April 23rd, the anniversary of his death (and in 1995 this became the internationally celebrated World Book Day).
So, on April 23rd, El Día de Sant Jordi, it’s traditional for women to get roses and men to get books (because princesses like pretty things and knights are smart).
From what I’ve heard I should expect the streets to be full of vendors selling books, authors doing book signings, and roses galore. I’m excited to see all of the action!
In other news, today, Friday, April 22nd, 2016 just haaaaappens to be Tony and my six year dating anniversary (whaat?!). I’ll call the timing with Catalonia’s Lovers Day fate. I hope he buys me a book. And maybe a rose too – except not because apparently one rose will run you anywhere from 3-12€ tomorrow. He can buy me a rose for a euro on Monday.
Do you have a special Valentine’s Day or Dia de Sant Jordi tradition? Let’s chat below!