Sunday, April 18, 2010

My New Favorite Holiday!

Last year an advance reader's copy of Carlos Ruiz Zafon's new book (well, new to us in the US), The Angel's Game was sent to the bookstore. With it was a letter from the publisher, describing the release date (April 23) as coinciding with St George's Day, also known as World Book Day or International Day of the Book...

Wait, there's a WORLD BOOK DAY??? And no one told me??? This had to be the best holiday ever...

Wikipedia says...
St George's feast is ranked higher in England and in certain other regions. It is the second most important National Feast in Catalonia, where the day is known in Catalan as La Diada de Sant Jordi and it is traditional to give a rose and a book to a loved one. This tradition inspired UNESCO to declare this the International Day of the Book, since April 23, 1616 was also the date of death of both the English playwright William Shakespeare (according to the Julian calendar) and the Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes (according to the Gregorian calendar).

Okay, International Book Day, World Book Day, different names, same great idea...

Carlos Estrada from the Barcelona School gives more background...

St. George's Day has been celebrated since 1436. St. George is the patron Saint of Catalonia

• Catalonia : In Catalonia St. George's day coincides with the Fair of the Book and the Rose. On this day every man offers a rose to his loved one (wife or fiancĂ©e), and in return she gives him a book. The book is in memory of Cervantes. This custom was started in 1926, to commemorate Cervantes death (author of "Don Quixote").

A holiday where one is supposed to give a loved one a book? Not just a present, but a BOOK. I'm surprised bookstores all over the US haven't jumped all over this one...but I digress...

The Legend.

The 23rd April is a date that has always been linked, either directly or indirectly, to literature and popular traditions.

Here is the legend: St. George fights the wicked dragon that held the princess captive. Finally St. George kills the dragon and on the spot where the dragons blood was spilled a rose grew as a symbol of love and friendship.

But what has really given importance to this date is that it is now considered to be the "World Book Day".

On 23rd April books are sold in the streets on long stalls prepared specially for the grand occasion. Many people take advantage of this day, even though they may not normally be regular readers, to buy and enjoy a book. It is one way of encouraging people to read.

This is also a popular date to launch new novels onto the market and many authors take advantage of the fact in order to promote their latest book.
Last, but not least, there is nothing nicer than lovers exchanging a book and a rose.


Right now I am reading Interred With Their Bones by Jennifer Lee Carrell. It's kind of a Da Vinci Code for Shakespeare, with a little Don Quixote thrown in there as well.

This is not the book I'll be giving on St George's Day, but it seemed an appropriate one to read as my new favorite holiday approaches.

Happy St George's Day!

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