April 29, 2014
Celebrating Saint Jordi 2014, International Books and Roses Day
by Claire Kelley
One of the most famous holidays in Catalonia in Spain is Saint Jordi Day, a celebration of love and literature on April 23. The legend of Saint George involves a brave knight who saved a princess from a dragon, and gave her a beautiful rose that sprung from the dragon’s blood. In 1928, some Catalan booksellers decided that Saint Jordi’s feast day could be celebrated along with the anniversary of the deaths of Miguel de Cervantes and William Shakespeare. To this day, the tradition is that the booksellers’ stalls in Barcelona fill up with flowers and books, and the men give women roses, and the women give the men a book.
While that might seem to be a little sexist, the Catalan tradition has spread to the UK, Ireland, and the United States in the form of World Book Day, which was officially established by UNESCO in 1995, and World Book Night, when books are distributed for free—everyone can just give books to each other.
And some who once found Saint Jordi Day to be too old fashioned, are seeing the jump in book sales as a form of “progressive social engineering” or a way to prop up the book publishing industry.
In our neighborhood of Dumbo, Brooklyn, the Catalan Institute of America celebrated International Books and Roses Day over the weekend with a series of readings and bookstore visits, including a stop at the Melville House office and bookshop.
Claire Kelley is the Director of Library and Academic Marketing at Melville House.