Sant Jordi’s Festival could be recognised as UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage
After the 2016 celebrations for Sant Jordi’s festival came to a close, Catalan Minister of Culture Santi Vila announced that the Catalan Government will offer its full support to an initiative to recognise the feast day as UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH). As opposed to UNESCO World Heritage, ICH safeguarding works to promote and protect traditions, practices, and other living expressions of culture beyond physical sites, objects, and monuments. Until now, the Catalan Booksellers Guild and the Catalan Publishers Guild have discussed the initiative with the House of Books — the same institute that worked to have the 23rd of April recognised as UNESCO World Book Day.
Barcelona (CNA).- The Sant Jordi festival, one of Catalonia’s most beloved traditions, could be recognised as UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage. This is the proposal of the Catalan Booksellers Guild and the Catalan Publishers Guild together with the House of Books — the same institute that helped the 23rd of April become recognised as UNESCO World Book Day in 1995. With Sant Jordi’s Day still echoing, Catalan Minister for Culture Santi Vila said that the Catalan Government will offer its full support to the “excellent initiative” promoting Sant Jordi’s festival. According to President of the Catalan Guild of Booksellers Antoni Daura, the initiative will follow similar steps to be recognised alongside other intangible cultural heritage practised throughout Catalonia. While the proposal is still under review, however, Vila said it will require consensus between all sectors involved in the festival in order to be successful in expanding and protecting the beloved Catalan feast day.
But, should the festival be recognised as intangible cultural heritage, Vila said it will only “further project to the world that in Catalonia, Sant Jordi’s Day is a unique and remarkable event linked to culture and identity and that, in addition, the whole world understands is in association with the commemorations of the deaths of Shakespeare and Cervantes”.
UNESCO safeguarding cultural practices, traditions since 2003
Although UNESCO has been working to protect natural and cultural World Heritage since 1972, Intangible Cultural Heritage only started to be recognised in 2003. Since then, UNESCO has helped countries around the world to safeguard cultural practices, traditions, and other living expressions of heritage. In Catalonia, some of these recognised practices that are emblematic of the region’s identity include the Patum of Berga, the “castells” or human towers, and the fire festivals held throughout the Pyrenees near the summer solstice.
Sales increase by 3% this Sant Jordi, despite falling on the weekend
Although Sant Jordi fell on a Saturday this year, book sales have still increased by 3% compared with 2015, according to the Booksellers Associations of Catalonia. In fact, 1.58 million copies of books were sold for 20.96 million euros, which represents a 3% increase compared with the 1.53 million books sold in 2015 for 20.35 million euros. The number of titles of books sold also increased to 45,267 compared to the previous year, which saw a total of 43,070 books sold. The quantity of individual titles of books sold in Catalan stood only at 32.65%, which makes it particularly significant that Sant Jordi still marked an increase in quantity of actual books sold in Catalan (54.32%), breaking the usual trend of the rest of the year. The Booksellers Association of Catalonia also released the highest selling titles, with ‘La filla del capità Groc’ in first place as predicted.
According to the president of the Booksellers Association of Catalonia, Antoni Daura, this confirms that Sant Jordi continues to establish its “attraction” and that the day remains in “very good health”.
The president of the Chamber of Books, Patrici Tixis, also pointed to the “exceptionality” of the day. Tixis explained that Sant Jordi breaks the trend that manifests itself for most of the year, when the quantity of books sold in Catalan only represents 25% of sales. As regards the different titles of books sold in the two languages, 32.65% of the books sold were in Catalan, whereas 67.35% were in Spanish. “Sant Jordi, when this phenomenon occurs, is a specifically Catalan holiday: it is not exportable to the rest of the year”, specified the president of the Chamber of Books.
However, when assessing the actual number of units sold, books in Catalan surpass those sold in Spanish, reaching 54.32% of sales, compared to books in Spanish which stood at 45.38%. As regards provinces, the most titles were sold in Barcelona (41,516), followed by Girona (11,568), Tarragona (9,748) and lastly Lleida (9,636).