Monday, 24 April 2017

Catalonia celebrates St Jordi's Day with books, roses and signatures for the referendum


Barcelona (ACN).- Every year on 23rd April, the UNESCO World Book Day, Catalans celebrate their patron saint, Sant Jordi's Day (Saint George). It is one of the Catalans’ most cherished national days, when people give books and red roses to friends and loved ones in celebration of love and literature. Traditionally men used to give a red rose to women and women gave men books in return. But the tradition has evolved and nowadays men and women both give and receive books and roses to each other as well as to friends and even co-workers. This year’s Sant Jordi's Day was an especially sunny day in Catalonia. The streets of Barcelona and all around the country were flooded with books and flower stands, where people lined up to buy books and roses or just stroll around enjoying the magic moment. Like every year hundreds of authors from Catalonia but also from all around the world came to the Catalan capital to sign their books and to join the festive atmosphere. In addition, emblematic buildings such as Gaudi’s Casa Batlló on the famous Passeig de Gracia was decorated with red roses and encouraged visitors to learn about the legend of Sant Jordi.

Sant Jordi is a very important day for Catalan booksellers, when they make around 5 to 7 percent of their annual sales. This year’s sales are expected to be around 1.5 million books. And despite the fact that Sant Jordi fell on a Sunday, Joan Guillén, president of the Association of Flower Sellers of Catalonia, said he was “completely satisfied with the sales” of almost 6 million roses.

UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Candidacy 

In the official annual Sant Jordi address, the president of Catalonia, Carles Puigdemont, invited Catalonia's citizens to join the festivities and to give loved ones roses and books, because “this is the best way to show our love for our language and culture”. Puigdemont also emphasized Catalonia's proposal to declare Sant Jordi an element of intangible cultural heritage recognized by UNESCO. He also stated that “if the celebration of Sant Jordi's Day is recognized as intangible cultural heritage, it will not be thanks to the political prosecutors of Catalan culture, but instead to those who have kept the flame of Catalan culture and language alive through books”. Puigdemont made this remark in reference to the visit from Spanish Government vice president, Soraya Sáenz de Santamaria, who had participated in a ceremony in support of the Catalan UNESCO candidacy last Friday. The Catalan president also used the opportunity to remind Catalan citizens that their country has to take advantage “of books and roses, which are our most powerful weapons”.

Signatures for the National Pact for the Referendum

Like most events in Catalonia nowadays, the Sant Jordi celebration was also a special event on the political agenda of associations and parties in favor of Catalan independence. More than 5,000 volunteers were mobilized by civil associations to invite citizens and personalities all around the country to sign in favor of the Pact for the Referendum at more than 1,000 stands. The president of the National Pact for the Referendum, Joan Ignasi Elena, underlined the importance of the Sant Jordi celebration “as an occasion to sign the pact”, as many international personalities and European politicians have already done. Volunteers will continue to collect signatures until the 1st of May. As Marta Rovira, spokesperson for the Catalan Republic Left Party (ERC) declared in the Catalan media, signatures will be shown to the Spanish government “to demonstrate once again” the “commitment to give citizens a voice, so that they can decide their future in a democratic way".

Sant Jordi around the world

The delegations of the Catalan government as well as the Council for Public Diplomacy of Catalonia (DiploCAT) and hundreds of associations of Catalans living abroad helped export one of the most significant celebrations of Catalan culture to more than 50 countries worldwide. In England the iconic Borough Market, located in the heart of London, adapted its stalls to host stands of books and roses. One of the attractions was a very much applauded human castle, performed by the “Castellers of London”. In Munich, book stands and a Sant Jordi legend street theatre play drew the attention of the German audience despite the cold. Numerous book shops and schools followed the invitation of the Delegation of the Catalan government in Berlin to participate in Sant Jordi celebrations all over Germany. More than 17 events in celebration of the Catalan saint, with Catalan book stands enticing curious readers, took place in the United States, eight in Argentina as well as in Melbourne and Sydney. All the activities abroad could be registered and followed up on DiploCAT's innovative interactive website


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  • Bookstand on Sant Jordi, 23rd April / Sílvia Jardí