What do Miguel de Cervantes and William Shakespeare have in common? They are considered to be two of the greatest writers in the history of world literature and, not only were they contemporaries, but they died on the same day - April 23rd, 1616, which is recognized in Catalonia, an autonomous region in NE Spain, as the Day of the Book.
In Catalonia, April 23rd is also the Day of the Rose because it is the day we celebrate the patron saint of Catalonia, Sant Jordi. The story goes that as the dying dragon's blood touched the earth, a red rose appeared which Sant Jordi then presented to his rescued princess. Sound a bit like St. George? You're right, because St. George is Sant Jordi in the Catalan language.
In honor of Cervantes, Shakespeare and St George, Catalonians combine the Day of the Rose and the Day of the Book into one very festive, romantic yet literary event - a celebration of love, literature and reading.
All over Catalonia, and especially in the capital city of Barcelona, streets blossom with outdoor flower stalls and book stands. Every bookshop gives a 10% discount on each purchase (the maximum discount on books allowed under Spanish law) and often they give you a red rose, too!
Tradition has it that the man gives his lady a rose and she in turn gives him a book. Catalonia is quite a liberal-leaning region so this tradition is slowly changing to a more non-sexist version - I expect a rose AND a book! And of course I always buy myself another book, too!
I will be out with my camera on Sant Jordi's Day and will post some photos of the goings on in a few days time - hope you enjoy them!
BookBrowse member Margaret Ristagno lives in Barcelona, Catalonia