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Catalans celebrate Sant Jordi Day by exchanging roses and books with their loved ones

On the 23rd of April, Catalans celebrate the day of their patron saint, Jordi (Saint George). The day is Catalonia's equivalent to Valentine's Day in the Anglo-Saxon world but it is also a day that pays homage to worldwide literature and reading. Men and women offer books and roses to those they love: relatives, friends, work colleagues and particularly to lovers and partners. Every year introduces twists to the tradition with 2015 presenting the 'TecnoRose' amongst other innovative designs. In addition, many authors spend the day touring around to give readers signed copies of their books. The amount of books sold this year is expected to follow the success and exceed the sales of 2014. 'El món blau. Estima el teu caos' by Albert Espinosa and 'La templanza' by Maria Dueñas are predicted to be among the bestsellers.

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22 April 2015 10:38 PM

by

ACN

Barcelona (ACN).- On the 23rd of April, Catalans celebrate the day of their patron saint, Jordi (Saint George). The day is Catalonia's equivalent to Valentine's Day in the Anglo-Saxon world but it is also a day that pays homage to worldwide literature and reading. Traditionally men presented their lovers with red roses whilst women offered a book in return. Today, both men and women offer books and roses to those they love: relatives, friends, work colleagues and particularly to lovers and partners. Every year introduces twists to the tradition with 2015 presenting the 'TecnoRose' amongst other innovative designs. In addition, many authors spend the day touring around to give readers signed copies of their books. After a drop in sales over the recent years, the amount of books sold this year is expected to follow the success and exceed the sales of 2014. 'El món blau. Estima el teu caos' by Albert Espinosa and 'La templanza' by Maria Dueñas are predicted to be among the bestsellers.


Despite the fact that the 23rd of April is not a national public holiday, Sant Jordi sees Catalonia full of people trying to find a moment during the day to walk around the stall filled streets and buy roses and books to offer to their beloved ones. In Barcelona, the atmosphere is busy all day with the Ramblas and Passeig de Gràcia crowded with potential readers on the lookout for the latest titles and the writers who are signing them, while hundreds of roses are sold by street vendors dotted among the bookstalls.

The Rose Day

Sant Jordi is the most important day in Catalonia's calendar for the celebration of love but it is also the most important day for the flower market since 30% of the annual roses sold during the year are bought on this day. This year, nearly a hundred varieties of roses will go on sale in Mercabarna-Flor, the main flower market in Barcelona. The market has estimated that there will be a good sales rise in roses this year especially after the reduction in VAT from 21% to 10% on bouquets and plants and the fact that the 2015 celebration will take place on a weekday.

The President of the Association of the Wholesalers Mercabarna-Flor, Miquel Batlle, said that "every year research and innovation in the field of roses makes new varieties appear more interesting at a commercial level." One of the novelties this year will be the "Chocomix" rose: a rose bathed in a dark wax that imitates melted chocolate. Wholesalers have stressed that it is not an edible product. However, as usual, Mercabarna-Flor has led the innovative designs with the creation of rose aimed to give other florists ideas when designing flowers for Sant Jordi. Their proposal this year is a 'TecnoRose', a flower decorated with technological elements such as keyboards, CDs, wires, and colours and motifs that suggest a futuristic element, like black or silver. The new rose design is also meant to symbolise a "tribute" to innovation in the field of roses and to the work of researchers.

The Book Day

The feast day is also the most important day for the publishing industry. The Association of Booksellers in Catalonia has predicted that they will sell more than 1.4 million books and exceed the turnover of last year of €19.2 million, which represents between 5% and 8% of total annual sales. Its president, Antoni Daura explained that, as every year, literature, children's books and media titles will be the top sellers this Sant Jordi.

'El món blau: Estima el teu caos' by Albert Espinosa and 'La templanza' by Maria Dueñas are expected to be among the bestselling Catalan and Spanish fiction books whilst 'Ja t'ho faràs', based on the TV3 programme, and 'Master Chef: Grandes platos para todos los días' should be among the top non-fiction books sold according to the Chamber of Books in Catalonia, LibriData. Among children's fiction, 'Sant Jordi i el Drac' by Anna Canyelles and 'El tesorero' by Francisco Ibañez are expected to be some of the best sellers.

Daura explained that because of the nature of Sant Jordi, the eBook was making "a much more modest journey than we initially thought." The President of the Booksellers believes that Sant Jordi is a day "to go out, go to bookstores and roam around the stalls" whilst "buying an eBook is usually done from home." Thus he predicted that "the percentage of sales of eBooks will be very small beside the traditional book."

However, this year Amazon has also decided to participate in the celebrations announcing the first 'remote digital signature´. Twenty international authors such as Ken Follet, Sarah Lark and John Banville and Catalan writers Xavier Bosch, Javier Cercas and Pilar Rahola among others will autograph the Kindle devices of readers who buy the digital version of their book. The idea is that the firm will "travel" to the reader rather than the other way around.

Institutional opening of the celebration of Sant Jordi

This year, the President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas will open the celebrations of Sant Jordi with an official and televised statement given from the gothic gallery of the Generalitat Palace, which houses the offices of the Presidency of the Catalonian Government. There will also be an official ceremony at the Palace, where a mass will take place, the blessing of roses from social initiative organisations and the reception of the Heir and Heiress of Catalonia given by the Catalan President. From 11.30 to 19.00, the Palau de la Generalitat will open its doors to the general public and the carillon known as Anna Maria will chime at 12.00 and 18.00. Having been installed 37 years ago, it is the only carillon that works daily, both in Catalonia and Spain.

A Catalan tradition rooted in the 15th century

Although Sant Jordi is not an official public holiday, it is one of the most celebrated feast days in Catalonia following the legend of its patron saint. The legend tells of Saint Jordi who slew a dragon to save a princess from being sacrificed. On the spot where the dragon's red blood had spilled sprouted a rose bush from which he plucked a rose to give to her as a symbol of his love for her. Since the 15th century, the symbolic value of the legend has been observed in Catalonia by offering loved ones roses. 

Following political repression against Catalonia's national symbols, the festivity was cancelled for centuries because Saint George was the country's Patron Saint. However, in 1914, coinciding with the restoration of the first institutions of self-government in Catalonia since 1714, the rose tradition was also restored.

In 1926, Vicente Clavel, a Valencian writer and editor in Barcelona, realising that the day of Sant Jordi's death coincided with those of Cervantes and Shakespeare, who died within a few hours of each other in 1616, decided to encourage people to give books as well as roses to their loved ones. The idea was welcomed with open arms by his fellow publishers and as Barcelona is the publishing capital of both Catalan and Spanish languages, the combination of love and literacy in Catalonia was quickly adopted.

Since then, on the feast of Sant Jordi (even under Franco, when the open sale of Catalan language books was banned for many years), the citizens of Catalonia have celebrated the day by exchanging roses and books with their friends, family and lovers. The tradition was adopted in 1995 by UNESCO to celebrate World Book Day. It is now copied in more than 50 locations around the world, such as Tokyo, New York, Paris, and London, among others, with the help of Catalan communities and institutional bodies responsible for the international projection of Catalan culture.

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  • The Day of Sant Jordi in Girona, in 2014 (by ACN)

  • Books being ready for Sant Jordi Day (by ACN)

  • The Day of Sant Jordi in Girona, in 2014 (by ACN)
  • Books being ready for Sant Jordi Day (by ACN)
Catalans celebrate Sant Jordi Day by exchanging roses and books with their loved ones