La Rambla: Barcelona, Spain
The Legend of St. Jordi
Once upon a time there was a ferocious dragon, which terrified a village in Catalonia with its fiery breath and menacing presence. To appease the horrifying creature, members of the village offered their animals as sacrifice to prevent it from attacking. But the dragon was never satisfied, and soon demanded an even greater sacrifice—one of the children from the village. The villagers decided to choose the child by lottery, and to their dismay, the King’s own daughter was chosen. But they had no need to fear, for a brave knight called Jordi vowed to rescue her. He approached the cave where the dragon was preparing to devour the princess, and slayed the terrible beast. From the blood that spilt from its body grew a beautiful rose, which Jordi presented to the grateful princess. In honor of his noble deeds, the people of Catalonia celebrate El Diada de Sant Jordi (El Día de San Jordi/St. George’s Day) on April 23 by presenting each woman in their lives with a rose.
April 23 is also, coincidentally, World Book Day. This date was chosen by UNESCO as it was the date of death of William Shakespeare, who is arguably the most important literary figure of all time. Therefore, in a merging of two celebrations, tradition in Barcelona holds that on this day each year men will gift women with a rose, while women will offer a book to the men in their lives. On the holiday, the city is lined with street vendors selling a variety of books and roses, such as the one pictured above.