St. George's Day - April 23rd

St. George's day is celebrated in and around Catalonia.

St. George's Day has been celebrated since 1436. St. George is the patron Saint of Catalonia

• Catalonia : In Catalonia St. George's day coincides with the Fair of the Book and the Rose. On this day every man offers a rose to his loved one (wife or fiancée), and in return she gives him a book. The book is in memory of Cervantes. This custom was started in 1926, to commemorate Cervantes death (authour of "Don Quiote").

• Barcelona : Book and Rose Fair. The St. James Square and main streets are lined with stalls selling books of all shapes and sizes. There is also an exhibition of roses in the patio of the Palace of the Autonomous Government as a symbol of the arrival of Spring

Sant Climent Sescebes : Procession to the magic rock According to a local legend there is a magic rock near the village that leads to a huge treasure and the spell may only be broken on the night of St. George’s day. The people from the village form a procession and bless twelve loaves of bread, then they share them out among the crowd.

The Legend.

The 23rd April is a date that has always been linked, either directly or indirectly, to literature and popular traditions.

The Catalan knights that set off towards the Orient could never have guessed the repercussions that their tales would have with relation to a local saint: St. George. Later the tale would be changed to fit in with the mediaeval traditional Knight in shining armor fighting evil.

The legend that was born is infamous: St. George fighting the wicked dragon that held the princess captive. Finally St. George  kills the dragon and on the spot where the dragons blood was spilled a rose grew as a symbol of love and friendship.

But what has really given importance to this date is that it is now considered to be the "World Book Day"

The role played by the "Renaixença" in the resurrection of the "Jocs Florals"

Thanks to the insistence of Antoni de Bofarull among others, the literary competitions were revived in Catalonia in 1859. It was from then on that there began to appear new authors and ideologists and there was an important increase in the number of newspapers published as well as political and ideological works.

After the interruption of the "Jocs Florals" because of the Civil War   they began to become very popular again from 1978. The idea of these annual literary competitions was basically to stimulate young people to cultivate and take a delight in the Catalan literature and language. Ever since then this tradition has been celebrated and is actually one of the most important  in Catalonia, it has gradually spread to the Spanish language and also to the English language. 

In 1996 this Catalan tradition became an International one, taking one step more towards the unification of peoples all over the world, even the mythical rose was given in the United States, Japan and France as well as other countries when a book was bought.

Why this date?

April 23rd was not only famous because of the legend of St. George, but also because it is the anniversary of the death of two great writers:: CERVANTES and SHAKESPEARE.

These grand writers have passed into history for their great works, becoming an important symbol in their respective countries. 

One way of acknowledging the work of these genii was to name this date as being the Book Day, and so it happened like that. On 23rd April books are sold in the streets on long stalls prepared specially for the grand occasion. Many people take advantage of this day, even though they may not normally be regular readers, to buy and enjoy a book. It is one way of encouraging people to read. 

This is also a popular date to launch new novels onto the market and many authors take advantage of the fact in order to promote their latest book. 
Last, but not least, there is nothing nicer than lovers exchanging a book and a rose.

Carlos Estrada
St. Paul's School, Barcelona

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