26 April 2016

Book Loving on the Day of Sant Jordi, Barcelona

Around a year ago, while I was still daydreaming of being in Barcelona, I read about an amazing Catalan celebration called day of Sant Jordi where people exchanged books and roses and lots of book fairs were organised around each area of the city, the biggest one taking up the Rambla de Catalunya. I'd already heard of it before from a teacher of mine at high school who was from Barcelona and was very into it - she'd even tried to import it to Florence but met obstacles. From just knowing about it, I was already very enthusiastic and being there was definitely a pleasure.
While I've read about many Spanish fiestas that don't appeal to me at all - la Tomatina, San Fermín, or any type of bullfight - I found Sant Jordi to be just as great as it sounded.

On this special day, the Rambla is super crowded with people and full of stalls selling books and roses. The first bit of the Rambla (from Plaça Catalunya) is the best and it is where most signings are happening. Walking towards the sea, books stalls sell political and religious books, and generally focusing on more actual and serious issues.

There was also a lot of music on the street, with different bands playing to celebrate. Many gigs were organised for the occasion, and I went to one in a pub where a Catalan band was playing in the Flamenco style. Loved it!

On this occasion I bought two used books, Veronika Decides to Die by Paulo Coelho and Love Poems by Pablo Neruda, who is one of my favourite poets. I have to say I haven't got out of my books comfort zone much (like choosing new authors), but I was quite happy with both being in Spanish as I'm trying to enlarge my Spanish library.

I loved to get to know the story behind the day of Sant Jordi, as I am a fan of legends. I'll leave you a brief summary in case you are one as well :)

Once upon a time, the citizens of a small village lived under the constant danger of a dragon. One day, the beast menaced to burn the village down unless he was offered children to eat. To keep the order, the king decided that the names of all young people of the village's names would be written down on paper and drawn from a bag. The first one was that of his own daughter! Horrified, the king let her go. It was then that a handsome knight called Jordi arrived at the village and found out what had happened. Without hesitation, he set out to go and defend her. After some fighting against the dragon, the knight managed to stab the beast at its heart, killing it, and save the princess. From its blood a rose tree sprouted, and he gave her the most beautiful of its red roses.

Isn't it beautiful? I love the fighting against the dragon / happy rose ending bit, even though it's an exhaltation of traditional gender roles. In the legend's defense though, I want to say that this is an old story and was hence narrared in a narrow-minded, ancient system of ideas. We shouldn't make use of that to debate gender roles. However the theory that until today women are to get a rose and men a book is kind of silly. Thank God I don't think anyone is respecting this kind of rule anymore. Personally, I can't care less about roses if I can get books :)

For a book lover like me, Sant Jordi was an amazing day. Seeing so many people buying books and enjoying talking about them is just so good, as too often we forget how important books are to open our mind, learn and take a fantasy journey. If I had the chance to choose when to go to Barcelona, I would go for these dates, as not only the weather's good but this is a chance you might not want to miss!

Have you been to Barcelona on the day of Sant Jordi?


  1. I love these kinda outdoor book fair / festivals / whatcha-ma-call-its! I find they always have great "steals" here for books, or hidden gems. Especially books from my childhood that I thought were maybe out of print! These photos are so lovely :)

    -Lor //

    1. That's so true! I actually did find some good classics this time. The editions are a bit old haha, but the text stays the same! Thanks for the compliment :)