Last year, I merely celebrated Saint Jordi’s Day in the fashion that one should when one’s household is half Catalan. But this year, through amazingly skillful planning I was actually in the heart of Catalonia to see the celebration at its fullest in Barcelona, Girona, and Figueres.
My original post last year talked about how this is the Catalan equivalent of Valentine’s Day in the US. This was mostly true, but I discovered that there is another angle to it as well. Since it is just a Catalan holiday, it is also a time for Catalan pride and nationalism to come out and shine for the day. The best way to put this in terms that Americans would understand is to say that Saint Jordi’s (George in English) is a blend between Valentine’s Day and the 4th of July. Probably an odd concept to wrap your head around initially, but when you’re in the thick of it, it makes a great deal of sense.
It isn’t a celebration that’s just in Barcelona, although that is the center of it. You see celebrations of one degree or another through every town throughout Catalonia. You see roses and books everywhere. I have to say that despite seeing some guys walking around with a pile of roses to give to all the women in their families, the guys get off easy. They only have to get the flowers. Women have the harder part in trying to figure out what book to get the guys. After all, that is the exchange; a rose for a book. But, this is changing these days and there are those couples who both give each other books.
Of course, much like you can find all things “stars and stripes” in preparation for the 4th of July for the US, you can find all things roses and red/gold (the Catalan colors.) We had lunch in a place with a special St. Jordi’s menu with the red and gold colors splayed across the dishes. There was a tea shop we went to where they can “red” and “gold” teas with rose petals. And absolutely, of course, there are Catalan flags everywhere, both displayed and to buy. One small thing to note for those visiting Catalonia on this day is that beyond the fact that it’s one of the few days when locals outnumber tourists on Las Ramblas, there are different Calatan flags one will see and there a reason for this. There is the standard one of red and gold stripes, which is the official flag. Then there is another one with a red star at the top of it, which is the flag for an independent Catalonia. A small thing that most might overlook, but it is a definitive statement. The only Spanish flags you’ll see out during the day are the ones for the old republic, which Franco overthrew in his coup that consist of a flag of red, yellow, and purple. A salute to what could have been better times 60 years ago I suppose.
It’s a fun holiday and a shame that April 23rd never really gets that much coverage in guidebooks to Spain for some reason, as it’s a cool to witness and you don’t have to be Catalan to do the whole rose and book exchange.