APRIL 23 / WORLD BOOK DAY
La Diada de Sant Jordi (Catalan pronunciation: [ɫə ðiˈaðə ðə ˈsaɲ ˈʒɔrði], Saint George’s Day), also known as El dia de la Rosa (The Day of the Rose) or El dia del Llibre (The Day of the Book) is a Catalan holiday held on 23 April, with similarities to Valentine’s Day and some unique twists that reflect the antiquity of the celebrations. The main event is the exchange of gifts between sweethearts, loved ones and colleagues. Historically, men gave women roses, and women gave men a book to celebrate the occasion — “a rose for love and a book forever.” In modern times, the mutual exchange of books is also customary. Roses have been associated with this day since medieval times, but the giving of books is a more recent tradition originating in 1923, when a bookseller started to promote the holiday as a way to commemorate the nearly simultaneous deaths of Miguel Cervantes and William Shakespeare on 23 April 1616. Barcelona is the publishing capital of both Catalan and Spanish languages and the combination of love and literacy was quickly adopted.
In Barcelona’s most visited street, La Rambla, and all over Catalonia, thousands of stands of roses and makeshift bookstalls are set up for the occasion. By the end of the day, some four million roses and 800,000 books will have been purchased. Most women will carry a rose in hand, and half of the total yearly book sales in Catalonia take place on this occasion.
Nowadays roses of many different colours are sold to be given as a present. Depending on the colour of the rose the meaning of the gift will be different. The red rose is the most common, and it is given usually to lovers because it symbolizespassion and love. The blue rose has also become popular, and it is usually given to friends since they symbolize trust. It is said that if you give blue roses to someone who is anxious, it will help that person to feel more calm. Pink roses are usually given to thank someone else for an important favour, or simply for that persons affection. These roses symbolize tenderness and kindness towards others. Purple roses symbolize nobelty, femininity and seduction, and thus are a good choice to give to women. White roses symbolize purity and innocence, and are often given to express someone the desire of having a deep long relationship, made of pure love and lasting forever. It is also said that if they are given to an ill person you are showing your caring towards that person. Yellow roses are a little less common, but are also seen. They symbolize joy and happiness, thus they are usually given to teenagers and also in celebrations.
The sardana, the national dance of Catalonia, is performed throughout the day in the Plaça Sant Jaume in Barcelona. Many book stores and cafes host readings by authors (including 24-hour marathon readings of different classics of the Catalan literature or the Spanish literature). Street performers and musicians in public squares add to the day’s atmosphere.
23 April is also the only day of the year when the Palau de la Generalitat, Barcelona’s principal government building, is open to the public. The interior is decorated with roses to honour Saint George.
Catalonia exported its tradition of the book and the rose to the rest of the world. In 1995, UNESCO adopted 23 April as World Book Day.