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Sant Jordi 2015: the sun shines as loved ones exchange roses and books

Like in 11 other countries around the world, Catalans celebrate their national patron saint, St. George the dragon-slayer, on the 23rd of April every year. In Catalonia, however, rather than an occasion entrenched in patriotism, Sant Jordi is revered as the lovers' day and the book's day, on which loved ones demonstrate their affection for one another with the exchange of roses and books. The sun is shining and the buzzing atmosphere that fills the streets means that just walking along Les Rambles is enough of an adventure on a Sant Jordi Day such as this one. Rose sales have exceeded those of last year by 7%. The best-selling books this year have been 'Algú com tu' by Xavier Bosch (fiction) and 'És l'hora del adéus' by Xavier Sala i Martín (non-fiction) in Catalan and 'Destino, la Templanza' by María Dueñas (fiction) and 'MasterChef. Grandes platos para todos los días' by Jordi Cruz (non-fiction) in Spanish. In total, 1.5 million books will have been sold by the end of the day.

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23 April 2015 08:53 PM

by

Shobha Prabhu-Naik Garaialde

Barcelona (ACN).- Like in 11 other countries around the world, Catalans celebrate their national patron saint, St. George the dragon-slayer, or Sant Jordi in Catalan, on the 23rd of April every year. In Catalonia, however, rather than an occasion entrenched in patriotism, Sant Jordi is revered as the "dia dels enamorats", or lovers' day, and the "dia del llibre", or book's day, on which loved ones demonstrate their affection for one another with the exchange of roses and books. The sun is shining and the buzzing atmosphere that fills the streets means that just walking along Les Rambles is enough of an adventure on a Sant Jordi day such as this one. Rose sales have exceeded those of last year by 7%. The best-selling books this year have been 'Algú com tu' by Xavier Bosch (fiction) and 'És l'hora del adéus' by Xavier Sala i Martín (non-fiction) in Catalan and 'Destino, la Templanza' by María Dueñas (fiction) and 'MasterChef. Grandes platos para todos los días' by Jordi Cruz (non-fiction) in Spanish. In total, 1.5 million books will have been sold by the end of the day, the equivalent to some 5% or 8% of the annual sales (depending on the year).


In 1926, Vicente Clavel, a Valencian writer and editor in Barcelona, realised that the day of Sant Jordi's death coincided with those of Miguel de Cervantes and William Shakespeare, who died within a few hours of each other in 1616. Thus he decided to make the 23rd of April as much about literature as about love. "Where there is great love there is often little display of it" wrote Cervantes in his epic novel Don Quixote, often regarded as one of the most influential works of literature from the Spanish Golden Age and the entire Spanish literary canon. But whilst Cervantes´ work is dearly loved and celebrated on a day like today, his idea of a discrete love seems to have been disregarded by Clavel and continues to go unheard in Catalonia today, where thousands of people have flocked to the streets in order to show great displays of affection for their loved ones through the exchange of roses and books.

It is clear as you walk down Les Rambles or through Passeig de Gràcia why Sant Jordi is probably the dearest Catalan tradition and the best day of the year for many Catalans. Families and friends manage to meet on a working day to enjoy each other´s company and the streets are packed with colourful stalls and local bands playing music. Tradition is matched with creativity and originality: for one red rose there are dozens of multi-coloured roses, or roses made out of felt or ceramic. Confectioners make chocolate knights and dragons, and bakers bake delicious bread with cheese and 'sobrassada' sausage in the colours of the Senyera, the Catalan flag.

However, strolling through the streets, it is clear that Sant Jordi is not just about selling books and roses. At its very core is the idea of displaying affection and sharing. The city itself shares its cultural heritage by allowing tourists to make exceptional visits to the Barcelona Town Hall and the medieval Catalan Government's main building – the Generalitat Palace, which are all opened specifically today. Sharing is encouraged to be literal as well as metaphorical; inspired by the legend of Sant Jordi where a rose sprang from the slayed dragon's blood, the Barcelona City Council and the Blood Bank unite in a unique campaign that mobilises people to give blood in exchange for a rose and a book.

The endless bustling and the constant activities make Sant Jordi a wonderful experience for anyone involved. By evening, when booksellers start to wrap up and take down their stalls, it will be hard to believe that for the last 12 hours, hundreds of thousands of people have shifted their way along the boulevards of Barcelona eyeing covers and sifting through book blurbs, inspecting the multitude of colours of rose petals, exchanging gifts and all of it, at least supposedly, in the name of love.

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Sant Jordi 2015: the sun shines as loved ones exchange roses and books