Every Valentine’s Day, my darling husband woos me with books. It’s so sweet (and it works!). It turns out, his amorous overtures are not entirely unique.
In many regions of Spain, lovers celebrate La Dia de San Jorge (Saint George Day) on the 23rd of April by exchanging books and roses. City centres shut down streets for a one-day book and flower fest. La Rambla, Barcelona’s most iconic street, is home to thousands of stalls of books and flowers for the day.
By bedtime on the 23rd, Spaniards will have bought something like 4 million roses and 800,000 books (according to Wikipedia–so it must be true!). Pretty impressive sales for a country roughly equivalent in size to Tasmania + Victoria. (Of course, its population is double Australia’s.) Half of Spain’s annual book sales take place on one day!
There are 24-hour book marathons of the Spanish and Catalonian classics. Bookshops host authors for readings of their works. Whether you’re a lover or a book-lover or both, la Dia de San Jorge is a romantic paradise for a day.
Saints and Books?
So…what’s the link between Saint George and books? Old Jorge was a just Roman soldier. It’s not like the dude wrote poetry or anything. George’s claim to fame was dragon slaying in the town of Silene, somewhere in North Africa (which hardly seems like your typical dragon habitat to me…). In the process of shish-kababobbing the beast, he saved a princess who was about to become a sacrificial offering. A red rose miraculously grew out of the blood and gore, and George (who clearly was no slouch with the ladies) plucked it and presented it to the damsel.
Voila~ Out of legends a romantic custom is born.
The San Jorge rose tradition began in medieval times, but the exchange of books is a modern addition to the celebration. In 1923, a switched-on bookseller noticed that the 23rd of April is a pretty big day on the literary calendar. Turns out a pair of uber-famous scribes died on the same day of 1616, namely the Bard himself, Will Shakespeare, and–more apropos to our Catalonian friends–Miguel de Cervantes of Don Quixote fame.
Bingo! San Jorge Day assumes a literary slant! The locals say,
A rose for love and a book forever.”
Here’s my perfect Dia de San Jorge: Strolling around amazing Barcelona with a rose tucked in my hair, browsing bazillions of books (even Spanish ones I can’t read), and sitting in a quaint bookshop where I sip Spanish wine and listen to Carlos Ruiz Zafon read from his gorgeously Gothic book The Shadow of the Wind. *Swoon!*
Day of the Book for All!
Lots of countries commemorate the feast of Saint George–though none does it so suavely as the Spaniards. England, Russia, Hungary, Albania, Serbia and many more nations have their own customs for the festival–all of which are suspiciously dragon-free and sadly bookless.
Personally, I think the 23rd of April should be an internationally recognised day–a day set aside for the love of books. It turns out I’m not alone in this thought. UNESCO cottoned on to the date and its association with the deaths of Cervantes and Shakespeare, proclaiming April 23rd as World Book and Copyright Day. (And they honour the memory of a few more famous writers too.)
And you know what a literary holiday time means? Here at Spilling Ink, it’s…
Last year, Spilling Ink honoured the Bard’s birthday with a fun Give-Away of a copy of Bill Bryson’s book Shakespeare – All the World’s a Stage and a box of adhesive bandages with Shakespearean insults. It was our first give-away, rather low-key, and a lot of fun.
This year, to celebrate International Day of the Book–and, heck, why not–Dia de San Jorge, Spilling Ink has a really great gift: for one lucky winner a pair of cute mugs–one with Shakespearean insults and the other with Shakespearean love quotes.
To win the pair of mugs,
- Share this post on social media of your choice
- Like this post on my FaceBook page
- AND, in the comments below, share your perfect way to celebrate Dia de San Jorge/International Day of the Book. See My Perfect Day of the Book idea above for inspiration!
The best idea (as judged by my romantic husband) will win the pair of mugs! I’ll announce the winner on the 23rd (Australian Eastern Time).
Have fun, share some love, and above all–buy books. Heck, why not go all out and buy some roses too?
Creative Commons Image Credits:
Dia de Aragon by Gobierno de Aragon
San Jorge 1 by Adriano Moran
Saint George by Nick Thompson
Roses i llibres by FelixGP