Today is St George’s Day, England’s National Day in recognition of the country’s patron saint, St George. In honour of the occasion, you might be joining one of the many festivals, parades, and events taking place across the country. Red and white St George flags will fly from pubs and public spaces; restaurants will serve traditional English fare of roast beef, Yorkshire pudding, and high tea; and people will celebrate with pageants and parades across Britain. In more rural areas you may even spot a bit of Morris dancing or a Punch and Judy show if you are lucky!
But, St George’s Day celebrations stretch far beyond England’s borders. Did you know that St George’s Day is celebrated in Catalonia, as well? (Or, ‘Sant Jordi’s day’ as it is known in Barcelona.)
Unlike celebrations in the UK however, this is a day where love and patriotism are closely intertwined – think St George’s day meets Valentine’s Day, also known to the Catalans as Día de los Amantes or ‘The Day of Lovers.’ It’s a great getaway if you’re looking to rekindle the romance!
A Catalonian Tradition
La Diada de Sant Jordi has been recognised since the 15th century, a day in celebration of St George slaying the dragon and freeing the princess, and since this time it has been traditional to give a rose to those you love. In the last century, however, it became tradition for a man to give his loved ones a rose, and a woman to give her loved ones a book in memory of Cervantes’ and Shakespeare’s lives – both famous authors died in the same week in April.
Of course, nowhere in Catalonia celebrates this day with as much gusto as Barcelona. Street after street is lined with red- and yellow-striped Catalonian flags, roses of red, white, pink and yellow galore, and endless piles of books on display.
Out and About in Barcelona on Sant Jordi
You will find the festivities and high spirits congregating around Las Ramblas and Rambla Catalunya, where every inch of the street will be crammed with vendors selling roses and books.
Once you’ve experienced the lively chaos of Las Ramblas, head to the Parliament and city hall in the Plaça de Sant Jaume. Although not necessarily impressive on the outside, on the inside they are a treat! Enter the Parliament through an 18th century neo-classical façade and walk into Catalonia’s answer to the Houses of Parliament, which dates between the 1200s and 1700s and features elaborate designs, beautiful chandeliers, grand sculptures and some impressive artwork.
You might also want to take along your dancing shoes. In the square, you will find hordes of Spanish dancing away, performing the Catalonian national dance, the Sardana.
St George’s Day Around Europe…
Even beyond Spain and Britain, St George’s Day is celebrated in several other countries across Europe, including Portugal, Germany and Greece to name a few. In Greece, St George’s Day is even a public holiday! There, the celebrations are particularly exuberant – red and white garlands hang from every street corner and red- and white-attired children parade through every town.