dissabte, 23 d’abril de 2011

Saint George/Jordi, and the art of giving books and roses



Today is the 23rd of April - a very special day in Catalonia. The Catalans’ Patron Saint happens to be Saint Jordi (or George in English). Yes, the guy who killed the dragon. Jordi was a Roman soldier born in Palestine in the 3rd century AD who later converted to Christianity. Although the first documented writings of the dragon incident state that it happened in Libya, the Catalans believe it actually happened in the town of Montblanc in Catalonia. They may have a point as I can vouch that there are definitely no dragons currently living in Montblanc.
Jordi finished the dragon off with his lance, and from the wound the dragon’s blood spilled out and amazingly turned into a beautiful red rose.



Nowadays in dragon-free Catalonia, it is customary to walk the streets on this day with your family looking at the many open-air book stalls set out, as the Catalans celebrate this day by giving books and roses to their lovers/partners. Tradition dictates books for men and roses for women, though many men give both a book and a rose to their “better half”. It is an extremely beautiful, cultural and peaceful celebration. There are many public poetry recitals and book-readings today too alongside other literary events. Many countries have also tried copying this idea of a “book giving day”, and in 1995 UNESCO declared 23rd April to be World Book Day (even though, for reasons better known to themselves, the UK celebrates its “World” Book Day in March!).

This day has many literary connections. Cervantes was born, and died, on the 23rd April, and Shakespeare also died on this date – but as the English and Spanish used different calendars back then, these “23rd”s were not exactly the same day, if that makes sense!
Click here for more info regarding this celebration.

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