Sunday, 23 April 2017

Thousands flock to the streets to celebrate love and literature on Sant Jordi’s Day


Barcelona (CNA).- Sant Jordi, on the 23rd of April, is much more than Catalonia’s Patron Saint Day. It is regarded as the Catalan equivalent to Sant Valentin’s Day, since originally lovers exchanged books and roses honoring the legend of Saint George, a brave drangonslayer who gave a rose, emerged from a dragon’s blood he dared to kill, to the princess of the realm. Sant Jordi is one of Catalonia’s most beloved traditions, the day on which all those living abroad admit to feel more homesick. Sant Jordi celebrates love and literature, the streets fill with stalls selling books and roses, authors signing their last novelties and exhibitions, live music and readings reaching every corner. Nearly 6 million roses and 1.6 million books are expected to be sold on the 23rd of April and in Barcelona alone, there will be nearly 5,000 stalls dedicated to Sant Jordi. Moreover, Sant Jordi is becoming more global each year and in 2017 50 countries worldwide will join the celebration and complement it on their own way.

Thus, is not surprising that Sant Jordi could be recognised as UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage. This is the proposal presented by Catalonia’s 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. The candidature has been welcomed and approved by the Catalan Government and the Catalan Minister for Culture, Santi Vila, considered it an “excellent initiative”. 

More than 500 activities scheduled throughout Catalonia

The Catalan capital is set to be the epicentre of Sant Jordi’s celebrations, with hundreds of stalls selling roses, bookshops taking their catalogue to the squares and renowned writers signing their novelties and meeting their fans.

However, there are more than 500 activities scheduled throughout the territory, including lectures, book presentations, open houses at various museums, staged readings, music recitals, poetry readings, toasts and writing contests, meetings with writers, reading workshops, etc.

Books and roses: the initiative to export Sant Jordi worldwide

Since UNESCO declared the 23rd of April International Book Day in 1995, the festival has gained popularity across the globe. This year, more than 50 countries have scheduled exhibitions, public readings, and other activities related to Sant Jordi throughout the week. Thus, cities as distant as Buenos Aires, Melbourne, Reykjavik, Jerusalem, Johannesburg or Tokyo will hold Sant Jordi events. All these events are gathered together under the #BooksAndRoses label and promoted by the Delegations of the Catalan Government abroad and the Public Diplomacy Council of Catalonia (Diplocat). 

The Delegations of the Catalan Government abroad play a key role in exporting this festival around the world, together with the Institut Ramon Llull (IRL), which is a public institution in charge of promoting Catalan culture and language, and the University Network of Catalan Studies Abroad.

Besides the well established Sant Jordi celebration at London’s Borough Market or the Catalan Week organized by the University of Massachusetts at Amherst there are also new initiatives such as poetry night in New York or Catalan film screenings in Verona. 

Although stalls selling books and roses are the main protagonists, there is also live music, representations of the medieval legend of ‘Sant Jordi’, exhibitions, and other demonstrations of Catalan culture such as food tasting, traditional dances, or even tradition human towers, ‘Castellers’. Most of the events are voluntarily organized by Catalans living abroad through the Delegations of the Catalan Government abroad and the Catalan Associations, of which there are 125 located in 40 different countries.

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  • Book stall at Barcelona's Rambla de Catalunya (by ACN)
  • Hundreds of people walking through books and roses' stalls in Tarragona (by ACN)