So today is St George’s Day. Not just in England, though, but a whole host of other places (so Wikipedia informs me). One place where I can definitely vouch for George’s and this day’s importance is Catalonia where La Diada de Sant Jordi is a much more celebrated day than the semi-forgotten, slightly embarrassed thing it is here in Britain.
Two traditions mark the day of Sant Jordi in Catalonia – the giving of roses by guys to girls, and the giving of books from anyone to anyone. Rose-giving goes back to the 15th Century, but books weren’t involved until 1926, when someone decided to commemorate the anniversary of the death of Miguel de Cervantes, author of Don Quixote, Spain’s great novel.
In 1995, UNESCO took up the idea and declared the 23rd of April ‘World Book Day’, also commemorating the day on which Shakespeare passed through nature to eternity. ‘Book Day’ began as a parallel but soon became absorbed into the festival of Sant Jordi, it becoming a tradition to give a book to someone close. The fervour with which this tradition has been taken up is seen in the fact that nearly half of all sales of books written in Catalan are reaped on this day – no wonder authors do their utmost to promote their book at this time!
And so now, Sant Jordi is firmly established as the day of the book and the rose, taking on the feel of St Valentines’ – not really celebrated by the Catalans – and so becoming a day of love and literature! Not a bad combo in my opinion. Oh, and here’s a Sonnet…
Sant Jordi – A Sonnet
Quixotic hearts attest romance’s power
And Jaques will sigh that ‘All the world’s a stage’.
We play our part in each and every age,
And dance alone until the calling hour
When Love descends from long forgotten bower
To free the heart that built itself a cage,
Put pen to ink and fill an open page,
Take a hand and place in it a flower.
If all’s an act, explain this touch I feel
That lights my skin and sets my heart on fire.
The veil is torn and mysteries revealed.
My soul is won, with love forever sealed,
By nothing more than purest pure desire.
Love is what shall write this fiction real.
(This post draws on a blog I wrote during my time in Catalonia, which if you just absolutely have to do so, you’re very welcome to click here.)