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Birmingham City Council

Cultural Festivals: St. George

Painting of St George slaying a dragon

Cultural Festivals: St. George

Painting of St George slaying a dragon

St. George is the patron saint of England. He's also the patron saint of Moscow, whose crest is St George slaying the dragon, and of Aragon, agricultural workers, archers, armourers, Boy Scouts, butchers, Canada, cavalry, chivalry, equestrians, farmers, Ferrara, field workers, Genoa, Georgia, Germany, Greece, horsemen, horses, husbandmen, Istanbul, knights, lepers and leprosy, Lithuania, the Order of the Garter, Palestine and Palestinian Christians, plague, Portugal, riders, saddle makers, skin diseases, soldiers and Venice.

Saint George (Sant Jordi in Catalan, San Jorge in Spanish) is also the Patron Saint of the six million inhabitants of Catalonia in northern Spain. When he wasn't slaying dragons he was apparently very romantic and chivalrous. Also known as "The Day of Lovers," the Catalonian La Diada de Sant Jordi is like Valentine's Day with some uniquely Latin twists. The main event is the exchange of gifts between sweethearts -- men give their novias roses, and women give their novios a book to celebrate the occasion. Roses have been associated with this day since mediaeval times, but the giving of books is a more recent marketing ploy. In 1923, a bookseller started to promote the holiday as a way to honour the near-simultaneous deaths of Miguel Cervantes and William Shakespeare on April 23, 1616. Barcelona, the main city in Catalonia, is the publishing capital of the Spanish-speaking world and this celebration of love and literacy was quickly adopted.

On Barcelona's principal street, Las Ramblas, and all over the city, hundreds of stands of roses and makeshift bookstalls are hastily set up for the occasion. By the end of the day, some four million roses and 400,000 books will have been purchased in the name of love. You will be hard-pressed to find a woman without a rose in hand, and half of the total yearly book sales in Catalonia take place on this occasion.

While La Diada de Sant Jordi is not an "official" holiday, most romantics ditch the office to stroll the beautiful streets of Barcelona and to take in the sultry springtime weather. Love is definitely in the air, but even if you don't have a novio to smooch on a park bench there are still plenty of things to see and do.

St George's Day is celebrated in England, in a somewhat more understated manner, on 23rd April every year.