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Flower in book - Catalan holiday, Sant Jordi Localisation

Understanding Sant Jordi: flowers, dragons, and the localisation of a saint?

Have you ever heard of Sant Jordi? Ah, surely you have if you just think about it for a second.

No, it’s not the name of a shoe designer and it’s not even an amateur football team in the Caribbean. At least it wasn’t the last time we checked out some killer heels and then had a look at the Trinidad & Tobago league tables.

Clue: He was a Roman soldier, although he seems to have been born in what is modern-day Greece or Turkey. Then there was the time he had a bit of a tiff with a dragon and a few other things probably happened before he got killed by the Roman Emperor for failing to renounce his religion. The End.

Oh, he’s also the patron saint of England as well as Catalonia and others. Is Sant Jordi beginning to sound a little bit familiar?

That’s right; Santa Jordi is none other than our beloved Saint George. In the Spanish region of Catalonia, where he is known by this name, he is venerated and has his own day of the year to prove it. Not even Messi has that honour yet.

St George on white horse and stabbing dragon

The similarities

You might think that Sant Jordi’s Day in Catalonia and St George’s Day in England would be very similar in nature. Well, they are both celebrated on the 23rd of April, which is the date when our hero met a nasty martyr-style death back in AD 303.

And…that’s about it really as far as the similarities go. To be fair, the relative indifference that many people have about St George’s Day means that it is difficult to compare it with the popular Diada de Sant Jordi.

Perhaps one of the reasons that the locals feel closer to the legend is due to the fact they claim that some of his life took place in Montblanc in the North East of the Iberian Peninsula. On the other hand, it is often said that the lack of a solid connection between St George and England works against him. This is one reason why the English don’t get as excited and some even want to replace him with a local saint!

One thing that eagle-eyed visitors to Barcelona might notice is that the city’s flag is a mixture of the Catalan flag and St George’s Cross. However, you are more likely to see the standard Catalan flag than the Barcelona one on the big day.

Catalan flag arms

Books and roses

When we look at how the day of St George is enjoyed in the UK it is hard not to feel a bit jealous of those red-blooded Catalans. You see, the 23rd of April is seen as the most romantic day of the year for them. In fact, it is sometimes called Lover’s Day or Rose Day.

Traditionally, a man will give a rose to a woman. Women will respond by giving men a book. These traditions are still alive, although in modern times women will sometimes gift roses and men might give a book.

This day is also seen as a good chance to promote Catalan culture and identity. Expect to see lots and lots of those Catalan flags fluttering about.

Interestingly, this day isn’t a public holiday in Catalonia, so you can’t use the shops being closed as an excuse for not giving a romantic gift.  In fact, with piles of books and tons of roses for sale on the street it would take someone with a heart of stone to not buy a little something as a gift for someone special.

Sant Jordi - book and flower exchange in Barcelona stall - Sant Jordi Localisation

Is it kind of like localisation?

Localisation is big news right now in terms of companies adapting their products and image to a local market. In this way, we can see how someone might try and appeal to the local culture and tastes with their images, their video subtitling and their voice overs.

Could we see the two different ways of celebrating the life and death of St George as being kind of like this? After all, it is the same person who is the subject of these days, so why do the Catalans get books and roses while the English get tea towels with dragons and crosses on them?

Perhaps we can look on this as being a clear example of how different cultures will naturally lean towards certain attitudes. The Catalans obviously heard about St George’s legend and thought, “What a romantic story. Here, have a rose.” Meanwhile in colder England, you never hear about the romantic links to the story.

It needs to be remembered that the rose gifting tradition began in Catalonia in the 15th century. Back then it was easier for cultures to grow in different ways as there was no easy way of sharing information until ye olde internet and a bit of video translation started floating around.

If you happen to be in Barcelona or the surrounding area at this time of year then be sure to take a look at how St Jordi’s Day is celebrated and think about how different it is from St George’s Day. Is this the kind of localisation that your business needs with a voice over recording or subtitles in order to make a deeper connection and stand out in different markets around the world?

If yes, contact us today.