Diada de Sant Jordi | In the Dark

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Today, 23rd April, is Diada de Sant Jordi (Saint George’s Day) which, though not a public holiday, is a very special occasion in Barcelona. Saint George is of course familiar to me as the Patron Saint of England, and of quite a few other places, but wasn’t aware until a few weeks ago that he is also the Patron Saint of Catalonia.

Not much is known about Saint George, but it is believed that he was born in Cappadocia (modern-day Turkey, then part of the Roman Empire) to parents of Greek origin, and that he fought in the Roman army and died in 303 AD in Syria Palaestina (also part of the Roman Empire). There is no evidence that he ever visited England or Catalonia for that matter. It seems that he began to be venerated around about the time of the First Crusade, which happened over seven hundred years after his death.

Anyway, the Festa de Sant Jordi is celebrated in a very civilized and charming way in Barcelona. Traditionally the celebration involved giving gifts of flowers (especially roses) to women and gifts of books to men. That is obviously a bit sexist so nowadays you can give flowers and books to whomever you wish. In order to facilitate this, quite a large area of the Eixample district around my apartment is largely closed off to traffic today, refuse collections have been paused, and there are stalls selling books or flowers filling up the pavements. It was especially busy this morning on Passeig de Gràcia, where the combination of queues at the bookstalls and queues for the Casa Batlló generated a big crowd, but the atmosphere was very friendly and nice (apart from a few car drivers upset at the road closures).

Here are a couple of video clips which will hopefully give you an idea of what it was like:

And here are some random pics

I wish I could visit the celebrations again, but this afternoon I have to take the train to Madrid for a conference.

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