As I write this blog, I am sitting in my classroom on the third floor of the old yellow Spanish villa in which the middle school is housed. Floating up from the patio/soccer court below are the notes of various songs including “Mama Mia” and something by Enya… and, best of all, the ebullient laughter of little children. Each generation, from nursery through grade 6 and also grade 11, is practising their San Jordi dances (choreographed by their teachers) to be performed in front of the whole school on the afternoon of Monday April 23rd.
San Jordi is the Catalan name for Saint George who is most famous for securing the release of a damsel in distress by slaying a fire-breathing dragon. (This painting of Saint George was painted by our students… I especially like that Saint George kills the dragon by thrusting his sword through the dragon’s eye. Ouch)! San Jordi/Saint George is the Patron Saint of Catalunya and, as it turns out, England AND Canada. On April 23rd of each year the people of Barcelona and the region of Catalunya celebrate this day by giving each other gifts. Catalan men and boys give their wives and girlfriends a rose (or roses… why limit it to just one?) while the women give their partners a book. The rose has, apparently, been associated with Saint George since medieval times and my students explained to me that when Jordi slew the dragon, the dragon’s blood was transformed into a rose which San Jordi then gave to the princess he had rescued. The addition of the book-giving, however, is newer and a very wise business strategy for Barcelona booksellers. My students told me that I MUST MUST visit Las Ramblas, the street that connects Plaza Catalunya with the harbour, on Monday as there will be hundreds of vendors selling roses and books. I just read that half of the regions books are sold on, and around, this day.
The famous Catalan Sardana Dance (a large, traditional circle dance) will be performed in Placa San Jaume, famous authors will give readings including crazy 24 hour marathon-readings of Cervantes’ “Don Quixote”, and I am told that many Catalans will leave work early to hang out with their beloved ones in cafes and parks. This I believe as it is finally spring in Barcelona with temperatures above 20 degrees Celsius.