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I Heart St. Jordi

Image and video hosting by TinyPicThe last time I was excited about Valentine’s Day I was in fourth grade. I hadn’t yet come to face the nasty truth of this completely commercialized holiday at age 8. I knew what it was suppose to symbolize nevertheless my feelings of giddiness had nothing to do with a perspective gift from a love interest. In fact, I still considered boys merely as playmates or rivals when it came to girls vs. boys dodge ball. I was excited because February 14th meant PARTAY— an afternoon spent getting high on sugar and the diplomatic exchange of Valentine’s Day cards.
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As I got older V-day became torturous. Unrequited love is a bitch and is only heightened tenfold when your crush ends up giving a .99$ 7Eleven rose and teddy bear to some other girl while you suffer in silence. This became a trend for me until I decided V-Day was a bunch of bull and requested that boyfriends ignore the day altogether and if they truly wanted to present me a gift to express their affection it should be given on ANY OTHER DAY except Valentine’s Day. For that, I think I was a great girlfriend. And el matador (the bullfighter, aka the current boyfriend) should be thankful. It’s one less date to remember and even though St. V-Day is celebrated in Spain however in Catalonia, the region in which I reside, St. Jordi is the favored holiday for sweethearts that blends folklore, flowers and the love of literature.

St. George’s day doesn’t have as much meaning to me as it does to a Catalan however the tradition is much more authentic and one I plan on celebrating especially since I love reading a good book. Historically on this day men presented women with a red rose and in exchange women gifted men with books. The holiday was a little sexist in its infancy but the tradition does date back to medieval times when knights saved damsels in distress. According to the fairytale version of the legend, a holy heroic knight, St. George, slays an evil dragon to save a princess from being eaten by the terrible beast. From where the spilled blood of the dragon seeped into the earth a rose bush magically sprouted. The knight selected a rose from the bush and presented it to the princess. The End. The real legend has more religious overtones but I rather leave religion out of it.

Now it is customary for both sexes to exchange pieces of literature although the book exchange is a modern adaptation of the holiday. Supposedly in the early 1920’s a bookseller had the brilliant idea of promoting the day as a way to honor the deaths of Miguel Cervantes (author of Don Quixote) and William Shakespeare which oddly took place almost simultaneously on April 23, 1616.

Coincidentally, my beloved Barcelona happens to be the publishing capital of the Spanish-speaking world and on St. Jordi this town morphs into literature love fest. As a book lover, I can’t imagine a better combination. For me, sharing a piece of literature with a loved one can be very intimate and personal unlike giving a box of chocolates.

Like always, this past St. Jordi or El Dia de Llibre (Book Day), Paseo de Gracia down to the end of Las Ramblas was lined with stalls of booksellers intermingled with flower stands stocked with red roses. Famous authors made appearances to do book signings at open-air book stands and marathon book readings in cafes throughout the city. Bookworms of all ages could be seen hunting for their next great read and modern day knights were on their best behavior escorting their princesses around town with their customary red rose in hand.

-Espana Fly

Read more from her here.

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