April 23 is the day Catalonia’s romantic spirit and love of books come together. Locals and visitors celebrate Sant Jordi by presenting their loved ones with a favorite book and a rose. In countless cities and towns there is a special set of streets lined with bookstalls and decorations as booksellers and florists prepare for their biggest day of the year.
In Barcelona, the famous Rambla boulevard and many others are filled from top to bottom, and from morning until night, as lovers and friends look for the perfect read for their special someone, and later stroll arm-in-arm perusing the plethora of new books that are presented during the holiday, collecting signatures from their favorite authors, and buying roses from students who are fundraising end of year school trips.
Of course, Sant Jordi is not just a single day, but the culmination of weeks of poetry and prose and even cooking and sports contests in schools all over Catalonia. Every bookstore in the land offers presentations of new writing in all genres by both Catalonia’s best loved and newest authors. On April 23rd itself, Catalonia’s radio and tv stations join the party with live readings, author interviews, and debates, bakeries share book and rose-themed delicacies, and the entire country is festooned with flags, books, and flowers. It’s a booklover’s paradise!
What is this all about?
Catalans love books and they love giving books to the people they love. This website is dedicated to Catalans all over the world that continue to celebrate the tradition of Sant Jordi—giving books and roses to their loved ones—all over the world. We think it’s a celebration that should be shared!
Is Sant Jordi the Catalan equivalent of Valentine’s Day?
Yes and no. While it’s true that Sant Jordi is the day to give your lover a gift of a book and a rose, the emphasis is much more on the books rather than the romance. You’ll see couples arm-in-arm wherever you look, but they won’t be gazing into each other’s eyes as much as perusing new titles from their favorite authors. And the book-giving is not limited to lovers: parents give books to their kids, friends gives books to their companions, and every woman gets a rose (alas, yes, generally, just women).
Why do you give roses along with books?
They’re beautiful! Of course, that’s not the whole story. It all goes back to the legend of Sant Jordi and the Dragon, whose image you can see in statues and buildings all over Catalonia. Read all about it here on the Government of Catalonia website.
And how did you start giving books?
We’ll take any excuse to give each other books! We’ve been celebrating Sant Jordi on April 23 for around 600 years—since 1436, but it wasn’t until 1929 that Barcelona-based writer and publisher Vicent Clavel organized a local celebration to promote books and reading. He chose April 23 because it’s also the anniversary of the deaths of Miguel de Cervantes (author of Don Quixote) and William Shakespeare. In 1995, the celebration spread around the world when the UNESCO declared April 23 “World Book and Copyright Day”.
Do I have to give someone a Catalan book?
There are so many good ones, you just might want to! There are new translations this year of classics like Josep Pla’s The Gray Notebook and Joan Sales’ Uncertain Glory (which The Guardian named as one of 2014’s books of the year). And numerous contemporary Catalan authors have also been recently translated. The English edition (and many other translations) of bestselling Albert Sánchez Piñol’s Victus: The Fall of Barcelona was just released by Harper Collins last September, and Jaume Cabré’s Confessions was published by Arcadia Books in November.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg as Catalan books are widely translated into many languages. For more insight into Catalan literature translated into your language, check this who’s who.
You can also access the database of translated books directly (both links lead to the Institute Ramon Llull). Of course, it doesn’t matter which book you give, as long as the person who receives it is happy!
Is there a Sant Jordi celebration near me?
Probably. Catalans have emigrated to almost every country in the world, and in many of those places, they have set up cultural clubs and organizations that celebrate Sant Jordi. Check the map on our front page to see where events are taking place. While Sant Jordi is always celebrated on April 23 in Catalonia, it often takes place on the closest weekend in other parts of the world.
What if I can’t find a party nearby?
The love for books and roses is universal, and Sant Jordi is easy to celebrate. The easiest way is to host a party and invite all your guests to bring a book to share. You can pick names out of a hat (“Secret Sant Jordi”) or choose the ones you like best. Enlist a local bookstore to set up a special stand with books and roses and some information about the holiday.
Some bookstores offer a free rose with every purchase. Kids can get into the fun with arts and crafts and theater projects: creating paper roses, acting out the legend of Sant Jordi, reading stories together.
This looks awesome, I want to come to Catalonia and see how you celebrate in person! Why don’t you have information about events in Barcelona and other local towns and cities?
You will love it! Remember that Sant Jordi is always celebrated on April 23, no matter what day of the week it falls on, in every single town in Catalonia. In Barcelona, you’ll find the largest gatherings, and the most author signings, but don’t stop there. Mataró is famous for its Fogonada style celebration, and the charming walled city of Montblanc reenacts the legend of Sant Jordi each year in full regalia.
Source: Books and Roses.