Letter From BCN No.1
How could you not love a centuries-old tradition that combines love, literature and flowers? April 23rd is St Jordi’s Day, and the city turns into a very romantic party.
Like many other countries in Europe, Spain shares a common legend with England, that of St George fighting the dragon. The Spanish version cleaves closely to the version told in the film ‘Dragonslayer’, in which the King cheats the annual lottery to sacrifice a victim to the dragon after his son pulls the winning ticket. St George takes the boy’s place, and there’s a single red rose involved somehow (I hear the most recent version from a Spanish friend at the festival, and there was some confusion about the outcome).
On St Jordi’s Day the gifts of a single red rose and a book are exchanged by lovers, so the streets are awash in flowers and books and couples kissing. I guess all the singletons stay home that day – although I was presented with a rose, and a girl on a park bench was given a whole bunch by a charming stranger, to whom she presented a book. It made St Valentine’s Day look positively pikey.
Better still, Barcelona is the publishing capital of Spanish and Catalan books, so Spain’s most famous authors line the whole of the centre of town and sign books for anyone who wants them. Key to this is the fact that they’re not selling books, just signing them, so it’s less of a commercial enterprise than you’d imagine.
At the end of the day I sat in the park surrounded by hundreds of people reading in the sun. If that’s not heaven, I don’t know what is.