The Catalan legend of Saint George and the dragon


UNESCO decided to celebrate World Book Day (also known as International Day of the Book) for the first time on 23rd April 1995 to promote reading, publishing and copyright. This date is the anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare, Cervantes and Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, as well as that of the birth or death of several other prominent authors.

But in Catalonia, St. George's Day (23rd April) has been 'The Day of the Rose' since 1436 and 'The Day of the Book' since 1926. It is also known as 'The Day of Lovers' and is usually compared to Valentine’s Day.

This day traditionally involves men giving roses to women they love (and that normally includes lovers, but can also include mother, daughter, friends or even coworkers) and women giving books to men.


In Catalonia, we have a nice legend about Saint George:

Once upon a time, there was a fierce dragon in Montblanc (Tarragona), capable of poisoning the air and killing with his breath, that threatened the town’s population.

The inhabitants, to avoid the attacks of the dragon, decided to calm him by feeding him one person a day, randomly chosen in a draw including the king’s family. After several days, destiny wanted the king’s daughter to be unlucky one.

The princess left her home and headed towards the dragon, but a gentleman named Saint George, a knight in shining armor riding a white horse, came to her rescue. Saint George stabbed the dragon and freed the princess. From the dragon’s blood grew a rose-bush with red roses. Saint George picked a rose and offered to the princess.

Since then, Catalans maintain the tradition in which men give a red rose to their beloved women.