To all fans of books and roses, Sant Jordi Day is the holiday for you. Celebrated throughout Catalonia, Sant Jordi Day falls on April 23 each year to commemorate Saint George (“Sant Jordi” in Catalan) with romantic flair. Reminiscent of Valentine’s Day, couples celebrate Sant Jordi by giving each other roses. But that is where the parallels end—in Catalonia the roses are given to commemorate Sant Jordi’s ancient bravery (he supposedly slayed a dragon in the eight century). The giving of books is a more modern update to tradition. Catalans wanted to honor the April 23 death of both Miguel de Cervantes and William Shakespeare, and so they began to give books as well as roses on Sant Jordi Day.
Bringing the tradition stateside, the Catalan Institute of America (CIofA) hosted a literary crawl on April 26th to celebrate “International Books & Roses Day.” The literary crawl was designed around the theme of literary translation and hosted 1-2 readings at each of 4 bookshops in DUMBO throughout the afternoon. Each shop was decorated with Catalonian colors, a bright gold and brilliant red, and the roses for sale boasted a tiny ribbon mimicking the Catalonian flag.
Brimming with Catalan pride and a love of books and roses, people filled the room at Melville House Books for the first reading by Polish translator, Ross Ufberg. In introducing the event, Jordi Graupera, a CIofA board member told the crowd that the goal of the day was to show Americans that Catalans are both “exceptional and normal” – normal for celebrating holidays like any other, but exceptional for doing so with the combination of books and roses.
Kristin Oakley is the editor at large for visual media at The Brooklyn Quarterly. She is currently pursuing her masters degree in digital journalism through Studio 20 at New York University. To learn more about her and see her work, visit kristinoakley.com.
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