Little tribute to my favorite holiday celebrated in Barcelona, Spain!
Saint George (c. 275/281 23 April 303 AD) was a Greek who became an officer in the Roman army. His father was the Greek Gerondios from Cappadocia Asia Minor and his mother was from the city Lydda. Lydda was a Greek city in Palestine from the times of the conquest of Alexander the Great (333 BC). Saint George became an officer in the Roman army in the Guard of Diocletian. He is venerated as a Christian martyr. In hagiography, Saint George is one of the most venerated saints in the Catholic (Western and Eastern Rites), Anglican, Eastern Orthodox, and the Oriental Orthodox churches. He is immortalized in the tale of Saint George and the Dragon and is one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers. His memorial is celebrated on 23 April, and he is regarded as one of the most prominent military saints.
The episode Saint George and the Dragon appended to the hagiography of Saint George was Eastern in origin, brought back with the Crusaders and retold with the courtly appurtenances belonging to the genre of Romance. According to the Golden Legend, the narrative episode of Saint George and the Dragon took place in a place he called "Silene", in Libya; the Golden Legend is the first to place this legend in Libya as a sufficiently exotic locale, where a dragon might be found. In the tenth-century Georgian narrative, the place is the fictional city of Lasia, and it is the godless Emperor who is Selinus.
The town had a pond, as large as a lake, where a plague-bearing dragon dwelled that envenomed all the countryside. To appease the dragon, the people of Silene used to feed it two sheep every day, and when the sheep failed, they fed it their children, chosen by lottery. It happened that the lot fell on the king's daughter, who is in some versions of the story called Sadra. The king, distraught with grief, told the people they could have all his gold and silver and half of his kingdom if his daughter were spared; the people refused. The daughter was sent out to the lake, dressed as a bride, to be fed to the dragon.
Saint George by chance rode past the lake. The princess, trembling, sought to send him away, but George vowed to remain. The dragon reared out of the lake while they were conversing. Saint George fortified himself with the Sign of the Cross, charged it on horseback with his lance, and gave it a grievous wound. He then called to the princess to throw him her girdle, and he put it around the dragon's neck. When she did so, the dragon followed the girl like a meek beast on a leash.
The princess and Saint George led the dragon back to the city of Silene, where it terrified the people at its approach. But Saint George called out to them, saying that if they consented to become Christians and be baptised, he would slay the dragon before them. The king and the people of Silene converted to Christianity, George slew the dragon, and the body was carted out of the city on four ox-carts. "Fifteen thousand men baptized, without women and children." On the site where the dragon died, the king built a church to the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint George, and from its altar a spring arose whose waters cured all disease.
Traditionally, the sword with which St. George slew the dragon was called Ascalon, a name recalling the city of Ashkelon, Israel.
La Diada de Sant Jordi (Catalan pronunciation: [ɫə iˈaə ə ˈsaɲ ˈʒɔri], Saint George's Day), also known as El dia de la Rosa (The Day of the Rose) or El dia del Llibre (The Day of the Book) is a Catalan holiday held on 23 April, with similarities to Valentine's Day and some unique twists that reflect the antiquity of the celebrations. The main event is the exchange of gifts between sweethearts, loved ones and colleagues. Historically, men gave women roses, and women gave men a book to celebrate the occasion"a rose for love and a book forever." In modern times, the mutual exchange of books is also customary. Roses have been associated with this day since medieval times, but the giving of books is a more recent tradition originating in 1923, when a bookseller started to promote the holiday as a way to commemorate the nearly simultaneous deaths of Miguel Cervantes and William Shakespeare on 23 April 1616. Barcelona is the publishing capital of both Catalan and Spanish languages and the combination of love and literacy was quickly adopted.
In Barcelona's most visited street, La Rambla, and all over Catalonia, thousands of stands of roses and makeshift bookstalls are hastily set up for the occasion. By the end of the day, some four million roses and 800,000 books will have been purchased. Most women will carry a rose in hand, and half of the total yearly book sales in Catalonia take place on this occasion.
The sardana, the national dance of Catalonia, is performed throughout the day in the Plaa Sant Jaume in Barcelona. Many book stores and cafes host readings by authors (including 24-hour marathon readings of different classics of the Catalan literature or the Spanish literature). Street performers and musicians in public squares add to the day's atmosphere.
23 April is also the only day of the year when the Palau de la Generalitat, Barcelona's principal government building, is open to the public. The interior is decorated with roses to honour Saint George.
Catalonia exported its tradition of the book and the rose to the rest of the world. In 1995, the UNESCO adopted 23 April as World Book and Copyright Day.
In summary, dragons are slain, princesses are saved! All lovely ladies get roses and noble gentlemen receive books on this awesome holiday!