Once upon a time, in Montblanc, a town situated in Catalonia, there was a terrible monster who could walk, fly and swim, and had a smelly breath so that from far away with its breath poisoned the air and produced death to all who breathed. The dragon used to eat up the pasture animals to such an extent to threaten the town’s population. So as to avoid the attack of the beast it was decided to give it a person every day. Every day, there was a draw among the population, the king’s family was included in it, and the destiny wanted the king’s daughter to be the person chosen. When she was going to be swallowed by the dragon a horseman appeared and saved her of being killed by the dragon. The horseman was Sant Jordi. At the place where the dragon poured out its blood a rosebush with red roses grew. Since then it has been maintained the Catalan tradition in which men give a red rose to their beloved women.
The legend of Saint George and the dragon is one of the best known Christian legends. The version most people are familiar with originally appeared in a medieval best seller called The Golden Legend first published in 1275. But eventhough that is a legend, there is a real reason for the tradition, which is that on the 23th of April, the knight Jordi was killed. The saint, who was under the orders of Emperor Diocletian, refused to follow the order to persecute Christians, so was martyred and beheaded. Soon they began to venerate as a martyr and once appeared fantastic stories linked to his figure.
The cult Sant Jordi is fully extended to all Catalan Countries, during the Middle Ages, although in the eighth century and was this devotion. And since 1456 it is the official patron saint of Catalonia.
Although the festivity was celebrated with more or less intensity or less since the sixteenth century, it is in the lates nineteenth century, the political and cultural movement of the Renaissance, when Sant Jordi was established as patriotic, civic and cultural festival most celebrated in Barcelona and Catalonia. Over the years it has acquired a vindictive tone of Catalan culture. So many balconies of the city are decorated with the Catalan flag, La Senyera.
From the beginning, the festival helps to give a strong impetus to the Catalan publishing and still retains the essence. And it has been so great the significance of the Catalan festival that in 1995 the General Conference of UNESCO declared April 23 World Book and Copyright.
For all this reasons, the 23th of April is easy to see in each street stalls selling roses and books. But why a single red rose accompanied by an ear of corn and not any other flower? Because according to tradition, in this present three characteristics come together: a single flower, symbolizing the exclusivity of love by the beloved; the red rose, symbolizing passion; and ear of wheat, symbolizing fertility. So it is a good item to give to a loved one on a special day like this. And the book which symbolizes the Catalan culture and literature.
Barcelona is one of the cities where you can appreciate this atmosphere, especially in the street Les Rambles. However the truth is that the main streets of Catalonia are stained red and the cultural events spread everywhere. City Halls offer free tours around the building, in the libraries there are many different events related to literature, there are held many literary contests of different genres and languages for all ages.
In my opinion, the most exciting part is developed at schools, because as a child that I was and as a teacher that I am, I really find it interesting, enriching and exciting for all pupils. In each school they developed different activities according to the children’s age. For example in Kindergarten they do activities and plays for them. In primary schools and secondary schools many literary contests are held, where children can participate creating poems, stories, theater plays, drawings, posters and caligramas, which is a poem, phrase, word or set of words whose purpose is to form a figure about what this poem, in which typography, calligraphy or handwritten text is arranged or configured such that it creates a kind of image visual (visual poetry). So on Sant Jordi’s day the awards of the contests are given, which usually are roses, books or vouchers for spending on books and stationary shops. As well, many concerts, plays, workshops, and activities are developed.
Thus, as you can see it is really a traditional festivity which promotes culture, that the Catalan people wait for it and worth it, even though this year I’m going to lose it. Nevertheless, thankfully times are changing and there are already coeducative books and new versions of the story, where the princess has an active role and the knight is not the only one who is brave. So don’t be surprised at the street, because roses and books are starting also to be a gift that everyone is given away regardless of gender.
To conclude this post, I would like to share one poem I did for my English class last year participating on the contest of the school, and of course the topic was about Sant Jordi. Hope you enjoy it and you get an idea of this great celebration! Happy Sant Jordi!
Sant Jordi: a true gift
Flowers, flowers, flowers…
On the trees and in the streets,
on the playground of the school and even in my class.
It looked like the spring was arriving
and with it Sant Jordi’s Festival.
Every child was wondering how we were going to celebrate it this year.
A play, a concert, a recitation of poems or a storytelling?
It doesn’t matter, ‘cause we were so happy to participate in it
venerating creativity and originality,
with any work made by ourselves.
All we had created was welcomed by teachers.
Poems with a perfect and symmetric rhyme.
Short or long stories with daily life characters or with fantastic ones.
Calligrams with a really beautiful message inside
And drawings with scenes that recall Sant Jordi’s story.
The whole day was full of intensive and wonderful moments,
especially when the director said my name.
It made me feel like a bird,
free, high and valued by my effort and work.
All this set in an environment
where people give roses and books, letters and poems,
full of affection, but also commemorating this traditional celebration.
Sant Jordi’s Festival,
where children learn to express themselves by arts,
as well as appreciate other’s work, arts, literature, books and culture.