NOTE! This site uses cookies

By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies. For more detalis, see Read more

Accept

What are you looking for?

Sant Jordi 2014: sun shines on Catalan festival of books and roses

Perhaps the most famous holiday in Catalonia, Sant Jordi combines culture with romance as books and roses are exchanged. As we all know by now, the legend of Saint George is a celebration of love epitomized by the brave knight who saved a princess from a terrible dragon thus harvesting a beautiful rose from its blood. So how did that become a day for buying and promoting books? Back in 1928, some Catalan booksellers decided to promote the holiday by setting some bookstalls all over the city to celebrate the anniversary of the death of two of the biggest names in literature, Miguel de Cervantes and William Shakespeare. Catalan Book Day was born and it would be declared World Book Day by UNESCO in 1995. The day after the Easter break combined with great weather resulted in a 3% increase in book sales. Swedish author Jonas Jonasson, Spanish authors Almudena Grandes and Pilar Urbano and Catalan writer and athlete Kilian Jornet were the bestsellers for 2014.

SHARE

24 April 2014 03:35 PM

by

Simão Chambel

Barcelona (CNA).- Perhaps the most famous holiday in Catalonia, Sant Jordi combines culture with romance as books and roses are exchanged. As we all know by now, the legend of Saint George is a celebration of love epitomised by the brave knight who saved a princess from a terrible dragon thus harvesting a beautiful rose from its blood. So how did that become a day for buying and promoting books? Back in 1928, some Catalan booksellers decided to promote the holiday by setting some bookstalls all over the city to celebrate the anniversary of the death of two of the biggest names in literature, Miguel de Cervantes and William Shakespeare. Catalan Book Day was born and it would be declared World Book Day by UNESCO in 1995. The day after the Easter break combined with great weather resulted in a 3% increase in book sales. Swedish author Jonas Jonasson, Spanish authors Almudena Grandes and Pilar Urbano and Catalan writer and athlete Kilian Jornet were the bestsellers for 2014.


Unlike books, roses decreased in sales by about 5%, compared to last year. The Flower and Ornamental Plant´s Guild of Catalonia estimated that less than 5.7 million flowers were sold yesterday, a figure down on 2013. Walking through the streets of Barcelona on Sant Jordi’s Day, is like entering a more joyful version of “The Shadow of the Wind”, the bestselling novel by Catalan author Carlos Ruiz Zafón.

Exchanging books and roses

If one knows nothing about Sant Jordi, the first fact to come across in all websites is how the tradition is a great mix between romance and culture. If, like me, you´ve never visited Barcelona before you feel that this festivity is indeed a fusion between them because there is a warm feeling in the air, a positive vibe brought about by the joyful spring weather. Tradition is matched with creativity and originality: for one red rose that are dozens of blue roses, yellow roses, rainbow-colored roses, metal and ceramic roses, plastic roses, paper roses, as the list goes on and on.

As for literature, book sales have done better than recent years and the streets of Barcelona were filled with both a huge demand and offer and the presence of some very famous writers such as David Trueba, Pilar Urbano and Almudena Grandes, who were available to sign copies of their work.

This year Swedish writer Jonas Jonasson repeated the same achievement as two years ago by penning the biggest selling book in the Catalan fiction category, with his second novel “The Girl who Saved the King of Sweden”. The bestseller podium is also filled by Nombeko Mayeki as a mathematical genius, driven by her destiny and great talent who goes through adventures all around the globe. On the other hand, world champion ultra-runner and ski mountaineer Killian Jornet saw his book, “Run or Die”, become the most requested in the category of Catalan non-fiction. Jornet’s work is an autobiography that details the reasons behind his success and the endurance of the athlete throughout his career and life. Bookstands also paid homage to Gabriel García Marquez, the recently deceased writer and journalist, whose books were confirmed as being the biggest sellers in digital format throughout the day.

Open hearts

Sant Jordi isn´t just about selling books and roses. At its very core is the idea of sharing the experience. In some cases, sharing is quite literal as people actually lend time to support important causes such as giving blood. This year, the Barcelona City Council and the Blood Bank united in an interesting campaign that mobilized people to give blood, following St George´s example in a rather poetic way.

Saint Jordi Day is definitely able of giving a new dimension to the word celebration: it is indeed (and also in a poetic way) a festivity of the soul and one that sets the sight of a Catalonia with a wide open heart.

Families and friends manage to meet on a working day to enjoy the presence of each other while tourists are allowed to make exceptional visits to the Barcelona Town Hall or the medieval Catalan Government's main building, the Generalitat Palace, which are opened specifically on this day.

There is such a buzz on the streets that just walking can be a surprising adventure which may lead you to change your plans at the last minute. One may be walking to a free entrance museum but be stopped by the music of a typical Catalan band which might lead the visitor to a different place and most probably to another activity.

As for music, highlights include the initiative by Barcelona beer brand Estrella Damm, which opened the doors of its Old Factory, located in the district of Eixample, to host some of the new artists around Catalonia and let them play and converse with their audience, very much like the book signing sessions. Bands like “Els Pets”, “Inspira”, “The Free Fall Band” and “Joan Dausá” could be heard by everybody on a sunny and enjoyable afternoon.

SHARE

  • A family buying books in Tarragona (by R. Segura)

  • A poetry bookstall in Barcelona's Les Rambles (by Simão Chambel)

  • A rose stand in Barcelona's Plaça Catalunya (by Pablo Ramirez)

  • A woman looking at a book and carrying a rose in Sant Jordi (by Pablo Ramirez)

  • Barcelona's Les Rambles crowded with people on Sant Jordi's Day (by Pablo Ramirez)

  • A book stand in Barcelona's Passeig de Gràcia on Sant Jordi's Day (by Pablo Ramirez)

  • A bookstall in Barcelona's Les Rambles (by Simão Chambel)

  • A family buying books in Tarragona (by R. Segura)
  • A poetry bookstall in Barcelona's Les Rambles (by Simão Chambel)
  • A rose stand in Barcelona's Plaça Catalunya (by Pablo Ramirez)
  • A woman looking at a book and carrying a rose in Sant Jordi (by Pablo Ramirez)
  • Barcelona's Les Rambles crowded with people on Sant Jordi's Day (by Pablo Ramirez)
  • A book stand in Barcelona's Passeig de Gràcia on Sant Jordi's Day (by Pablo Ramirez)
  • A bookstall in Barcelona's Les Rambles (by Simão Chambel)