There are many specific dates that we carve inside our heads as a special day. For example, on December 25th, your mind immediately screams Christmas. When it's October 30th, you put on your silly costume to celebrate Halloween. The majority of people wouldn’t think much of April 23rd as someday particularly exceptional such as Christmas and Halloween. But for the people of Barcelona, it’s their beloved day of Sant Jordi. The day where you see the streets filled with stalls of roses and books.
|[Dia de Sant Jordi. Photo Credit: Wikipedia Commons]|
Sant Jordi is a provincial celebration in Spain, Barcelona(Catalonia). According to Barcelonatourist.com, Sant Jordi was celebrated since the 16th century but became more patriotic and civic during the 19th century. On this traditional day, men give women beautiful roses and women give men books. But in current times, the people of Catalonia are more open-minded and don’t set certain gifts for specific genders. Now women are likely to receive books and men are also expected to receive roses. The most popular place to go during this day is the streets of Las Ramblas. You would find rows of flower shops filled with colorful, fragrant roses and stands filled with thousands of books, each telling a dreamy fantasy or the inspiring stories of a proclaimed author. Last year alone, 1.64 million books were sold in Las Ramblas. On this day, you will see a variety of people walking down this street with a rose or an interesting book on their hands.
|[Poster of Sant Jordi. Photo Credit: Yujin Choi]|
There is a legend behind this special day. The legend says that a dragon was living in the mountains of Montblanc. The greedy dragon would devour down the people of this town. The King was desperate and ordered the strongest men of Catalonia to kill the dragon. But one by one, they all ended up in the dragon’s stomach. One day, the dragon chose to kidnap the precious princess and use her as a victim. The King was drenched with fear and hopelessness until a brave young man named Sant Jordi appeared in the town and successfully stabbed the dragon’s heart defeating him. A bright red rose bloomed above the place where the dragon died and Sant Jordi gave this beautiful rose to the princess. Aside from this legend, both Cervantes and Shakespeare died on the same day of April 23rd, 1616, resulting in the tradition of giving books on this great day. This majestic tale and interesting fact are why you would find hundreds of roses and books on the streets of Barcelona on this day.
This pivotal celebration in Las Ramblas has been moved from the usual April 23rd to July 23rd due to the unexpected outbreak of COVID-19 this year. Although this was sad news for the Spanish residents who adore this holiday, the government and tourist companies have created new forms of entertainment for the people while they wait for this day. Tourist companies and the Spanish government have advised everyone to decorate their own balconies and share their Sant Jordi experience at home using the hashtag, #TotsFemSantJordi. This hashtag encouraged people to create their own roses out of regular household products or make their own roses. It has resulted in a variety of artistic roses. There were ranging from roses drawn on paper to roses made from egg cartons and yogurt containers. Also with not being able to come outside to buy books, there has been a rise in book sales for online retail companies. The coronavirus has not been successful in exterminating the joy and love for this celebration.
|[Interview with Madelina Torrié. Photo Credit: Yujin Choi]|
I got to interview with Madelina Torrié, a Spanish resident in Barcelona. I first asked her favorite memory involving Sant Jordi. She responded by saying, “My favorite memory was I woke up when I was ten, and to my surprise, I found a brand new Harry Potter book and a red rose on my bedside table”. Madelina explained that she was very touched by her parent’s gifts and that memory always brings a smile to her face. When asked about what makes Sant Jordi so special, she responded by saying, “Sant Jordi is special because of our people and the meaning. This is the day when you get to gift someone you love with something beautiful like a rose or a special book. Unlike other holidays such as Christmas, this Spanish tradition is meant directly for someone you love and appreciate. The love that the Spanish people have for one another makes Sant Jordi a heartwarming day”.But unlike Madelina, some people have not-so-pleasant views on this holiday. Jorge Aires a student in the American School of Barcelona has expressed, “Even though the true meaning behind Sant Jordi is beautiful, it is a holiday continued and promoted with meanings of consumerism from book companies. Sant Jordi is widely promoted by Spain so that book companies can benefit from sails and sell thousands of books easily”. Like Jorge, some people think the holiday as a consumerist tradition that is hungry for money just like Peppero day in South Korea.
In the end, Sant Jordi is an interesting holiday in Spain that many people have different views. As a student living in Barcelona, Spain, I think this is a very meaningful holiday. Not only does this holiday have a tradition where you can give gifts to your loved ones, but it lets you get to read another great book that will further deepen your knowledge and inspire you. From now on, why not get a book or a rose for someone special on April 23rd?
Sophomore (Grade 10)
American School of Barcelona
Yujin Choi firstname.lastname@example.org
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