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Sant Jordi (aka Saint George) is the patron saint of Catalonia, and although his saint’s day isn’t a public holiday, it’s always a celebration. Don’t expect saints clutching swords or dragons dripping blood: it’s a day for lovers, authors, book-signings and rose stalls.
Tradition dictates a rose for her and a book for him. But nowadays the rules are more flexible – women like to read too! Getting your hands on a rose couldn’t be easier. In fact, it’s hard to find a corner in the city that hasn’t been invaded by impromptu stalls. There are clubs and associations, charities and professional florists, students raising money and people making a little extra cash. For book-givers, the prize is a spanking-new first edition signed by the author. It seems every writer in Spain – and a smattering of foreign authors – spends the day being herded round signing sessions in the temporary marquees lining the main streets.
A mass celebration
There’s more to the day than books and roses, mind you. Barcelona welcomes spring with a flurry of artistic expression. Balconies are draped with Catalan flags, and crowds stroll the avenues, while restaurants are booked out by couples seeking a romantic table for two. La Rambla reaches full capacity. Plaça Catalunya becomes an open-air stage with a continuous programme of music and other acts. Literature comes alive, with poetry recitals and readings – this is also UNESCO’s World Book Day, and the day chosen to celebrate the anniversary of the deaths of both William Shakespeare and Miguel de Cervantes. Theatre tickets are half price, as are roses at the end of the day – the ideal time for absent-minded lovers to make a last-minute purchase.