The feast of Sant Jordi is one of Barcelona’s most popular and enduring celebrations. Sant Jordi is the patron saint of Catalonia, and his feast day has been celebrated here for a long time. The story goes like this:

According to legend, a dragon was terrorizing the Catalan village of Montblanc, eating all their animals. The town decided to sacrifice a person a day to the fearsome beast. One day, the king’s daughter was the person chosen. But just as the dragon was about to eat her, a handsome knight – Sant Jordi – appeared and killed the dragon, and a bush of red roses grew out of the ground where the dragon’s blood was spilled.

So how is Sant Jordi usually celebrated in Barcelona? Traditionally, bookstalls and rose-sellers line the streets, and people buy books and roses to exchange with friends, family and partners. Famous authors sign their books along Rambla Catalunya, as well as give readings in bookshops and cultural spaces all over the city.

The custom of giving a rose to celebrate the holiday dates back to at least the 15th century. The literary associations of the day came later; the 23rd of April is the day two literary giants died – Cervantes and Shakespeare – and publishers in the 1920s paired the day with a book-selling initiative.

Undoubtedly, the feast of Sant Jordi this year will be a little different. The celebrations have been postponed for now, and due to the lockdown, there won’t be any roses or books for sale on the streets.

But you can still celebrate Sant Jordi at home! We have some ideas:


1. Make your own rose and display it on your balcony

Paper Rose - Five ways to celebrate Sant Jordi at home | Oxford House Barcelona

Every year, Casa Battló, the Gaudi house on Passeig de Gracia, decorates its balconies with bunches of artificial roses, and this year they’re encouraging everyone to join in as a way of celebrating Sant Jordi at home. You could paint some roses on a white sheet (this is a good activity to do with children) or make your own origami roses out of paper. There are lots of options – from fairly easy roses to more challenging versions.

The streets will be empty, but Barcelona residents can help make sure the balconies are full of roses in celebration of the day.


2. Support independent bookstores by buying a book online


While it might not be the same as browsing through book stalls in the spring sunshine, you can still buy someone special a book this year. There are lots of options for buying books and novels online, but if you’d like to support local, independent bookstores at the same time, then buy through Libelista. It’s an online platform where booksellers can sell their wares online. You’ll be giving someone a lovely gift and supporting an independent local business.


3. Host a virtual book club with friends on Zoom


Sant Jordi is all about coming together with friends and family over books, and while that’s not possible during lockdown, it can happen virtually! Use Zoom to host a virtual book club with friends, where you all read a book in advance and then discuss the characters and plot. There’s a list of some popular book club choices on the Goodreads website if you need ideas. Try not to choose a book which is too long or difficult, and be sure it is suited to everyone’s English level.

Before the book club, try to come up with some ideas to get the conversation going – you’ll find inspiration for book club discussion questions online.


4. Watch an online fiction or poetry reading


During the coronavirus crisis, lots of actors and writers have been sharing videos of themselves reading poetry or fiction aloud. What better way to celebrate Sant Jordi at home than listening to Patrick Stewart recite a Shakespeare sonnet?

And if you have children, you’ll be able to find lots of free literary activities on the World Book Day website, with free readings, bookmark design competitions, quizzes and games. There are suggestions for all ages, from young children to teenagers.


5. Get involved on social media


You can still celebrate Sant Jordi online and see how others are celebrating. Casa Battló are encouraging people to share photographs and tag them at #totsfemsantjordi.

And the association of florists, el Gremi de Floristes, has started a campaign #rosadesantjordiacasa for people to share images of their own roses and celebrations. Share a photograph of your decorated balcony on Instagram with the hashtag #santjordialsbalcons for the chance to win a bundle of children’s books from the association.

How will you celebrate Sant Jordi this year? Let us know your ideas for celebrating Sant Jordi at home in the comments!

Glossary for Language Learners


Find the following words in the article and then write down any new ones you didn’t know.

Enduring (adj): something which has lasted for many years.

Fearsome (adj): scary.

Literary (adj): related to books and literature.

Postponed (v): delayed until a later date.

Bunches (n): a number of things of the same kind fastened together.

Browsing (v): casually looking at things that are for sale.

Come up with (phr v): to suggest or think of something.

Recite (v): to read something out loud, especially poetry.


adj = adjective

v = verb

n = noun

pv = phrasal verb

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