April 23rd, Saint George's day, La Diada de Sant Jordi,
Barcelona's Valentine's day,
a day when kissometer readings go off the charts,
a day so sweet and playful, so goofy and romantic,
that 6 million Catalans go giddy from dawn to dusk.
Patron Saint of Catalonia, international knight-errant Saint George allegedly slew a dragon about to devour a beautiful princess south of Barcelona.
From the dragon's blood sprouted a rosebush, from which the hero plucked the prettiest for the princess.
Hence, the traditional Rose Festival celebrated in Barcelona since the Middle Ages
to honor chivalry and romantic love,
a day for men and mice alike to give their true loves roses.
In 1923, the lovers' fest merged with International Book Day to mark the anniversary of the all but simultaneous April 23, 1616 deaths
of Miguel de Cervantes and William Shakespeare.
Over four million roses and half a million books are sold in
Catalonia on Sant Jordi's Day,
men giving their inamoratas roses and the ladies giving books in return.
Bookstalls run the length of the Rambla, and despite the fact that April 23rd is an official workday,
nearly all of Barcelona manages to play hooky and wander.
La Diada de Sant Jordi Lovers Day
In Barcelona and all of Catalonia, Sant Jordi's day erupts joyfully. The spring air is sweet and filled with promise. Lovers are everywhere. There is a 24-hour reading of Don Quixote. Authors come to bookstalls to sign books. In Sarrià a floral artisan displays 45 kinds of roses representing 45 different kinds of love, from impossible to unrequited to filial and maternal. The sardana is reverently danced in Plaça Sant Jaume, while the Generalitat, its patio filled with roses, opens its doors to the public. Choral groups sing love songs in resonant corners of the Gothic Quarter while jazz combos play in Plaça del Pi. The Rambla is solid humanity from the Diagonal to the Mediterranean, two miles of barcelonins basking in the warmth of spring and romance. Rare is the roseless woman on the streets of Barcelona, schoolgirls to avias (grandmothers), all aglow with bashful smiles. By midnight, the Rambla, once a watercourse, is again awash with flower water and covered with rose-clippings and tiny red-and-yellow-striped ribbons with diminutive letters spelling "Sant Jordi," "Diada de la Rosa," and "t'estimo" ("I love you").