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By Regina W. Bryan in Barcelona—
No box of chocolate See’s, no tacky stuffed bear, no lovey-dovey cards from Hallmark. Nope. The Catalans have an entirely different way of celebrating love: with books and roses. Men give one red rose (instead of a dozen) to their sweetie on St. Jordi’s Day, Barcelona‘s most romantic day of the year. And women? They give their man a book!
Celebrating love with books and roses
Celebrated on April 23, St. Jordi’s Day is one of my favorite Catalan traditions. All day the streets around the city’s central plaza, Pl. Catalunya, teem with men selecting roses and women examining books.
I do find the tradition a bit sexist. (Men get the books and women roses? Really?) These days, however, it is not uncommon for women to snag a few roses (from various admirers) and a book, so maybe things are finally balancing out.
Instead of reserving a romantic dinner for two, couples walk La Rambla (or “Las Ramblas”) or Passeig de Gracia and maybe have lunch or grab a cup of coco along the way. The streets are filled (and I mean packed, if you’re uncomfortable in crowds, avoid!) with lovers strolling arm in arm and stands selling books.
Sometimes couples go together to pick out books along La Rambla. Others, single or taken, head over to Passeig de Gracia where authors sign their latest novels and speak about the art of writing prose. Many of the city’s book shops have special events on St. Jordi’s Day (although many of their speakers will present in Catalan).
St. Jordi’s Day is not celebrated in the rest of Spain, and is very much a local, Catalan holiday. Regardless of when you’re in town, keep an eye out for St. Jordi (or “St. George”), who is depicted throughout the city in various sculptures and stained-glass art. He is famous for slaying a dragon and saving the damsel in distress.
Some of my favorite places in Barcelona to pick up books for my sweetie are:
C/ Pau Claris, 85, Barcelona
I dig the Pau Clais and CCCB store, but any Laie shop will do.
C/ Elisabets, 6. 08001 Barcelona
You’ll find an awesome book selection and fab cafe in front!