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Catalunya’s Beloved Sant Jordi’s Day Takes On Covid-19

April 22, 2020 European News No Comments
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On April 23, 2020, one of Catalunya’s most cherished holidays will transcend quarantine orders to connect, inspire, and bring a message of hope to Barcelona and beyond.

April 23rd marks Sant Jordi’s Day, a celebration of love and literature that is among the most treasured holidays in Catalunya. Even during the necessary COVID-19 quarantines, Sant Jordi’s Day will not be denied this year. Showing their commitment to the celebration even in difficult times, residents of the region ask: “How can we be left without St. George’s Day, if we have more love than ever?”

In response, various organizations including Casa Batlló (Antoni Gaudí’s modernist museum in Barcelona), the Florists’ Guild, the Guild of Booksellers, and various independent booksellers plan numerous initiatives that align perfectly with the day’s core messages of love for one another and love for literature. Unlike prior celebrations which have taken over the busiest streets and town squares — like Barcelona’s Rambla, Passeig de Gràcia and Rambla de Catalunya — this year, residents are being asked to celebrate and honor the day from their homes by undertaking various creative initiatives and connecting via social media.
On Sant Jordi’s Day, Catalans celebrate one of the most beautiful book fairs in the world. According to legend, Sant Jordi killed a dragon to save the king’s daughter. For centuries, in honor of St. George, the dragon slayer, Catalan gentlemen would give their beloved a rose. In the 1920s the Catalan Booksellers’ Association added books into the mix and thus the Sant Jordi Book Festival was born.
In modern times, love, books, and the tale of St. George are celebrated in conjunction with the United Nation’s World Book and Copyright Day, which coincides with the date of birth or death of many writers, among them William Shakespeare and Miguel de Cervantes. In Catalunya and around the world, millions of Catalans celebrate literature and love by exchanging books and roses, making this holiday one of the most important for authors and publishers, who sell 10% of their books on this day alone.
Due to the cultural and financial importance of celebrating Sant Jordi’s Day, a new date of July 23rd has been selected to officially celebrate the day in a public setting.  Despite this, on April 23rd there are several initiatives underway to commemorate the holiday while adhering to social distancing:
  • The renowned Casa Batlló has launched a social media campaign encouraging residents to  decorate their balconies and windows with roses created from recycled materials. Coalesced through #TotsFemSantJordi ( “we all make Sant Jordi”), the initiative is supported by the organization’s site, which offers videos on how to transform everyday items into beautiful roses.
  • More than 100 florists in Barcelona will be open to deliver flowers under the city’s Guild of Florists.  Though it is estimated that sales will be only 5% of a typical Sant Jordi’s Day, home delivery of roses will continue in order to convey the emotion of the holiday and empathy in these difficult times.
  • The Guild of Booksellers and Guild of Florists partnered to launch the campaign #SantJordiAlsBalcons (“Sant Jordi at the balconies”). The initiative welcomes families to decorate their balconies with drawings of dragons, roses, stories or book covers. By uploading a photo of an ornate balcony with the campaign’s hashtag, families are entered into a contest to win a batch of children’s books from the Booksellers Guild. Additionally, the Guild of Booksellers encourages all residents to get in the spirit of the day by reading on their balconies or out their windows, and by using #LibresALAire (“Books in the air”) on Sant Jordi’s Day.
  • In response to quarantine orders and to prioritize the health and well-being of booksellers and distributors, various bookstores have launched #SantJordiEtsTu (“You are Sant Jordi”) and have declared that they will not deliver books, even on Sant Jordi’s Day. Orders and reservations can be made but books will be delivered after the quarantine orders are lifted. The initiative encourages upfront purchases aimed to assist with the financial strain many bookstores are under.
To follow the Sant Jordi’s Day celebrations around the world and on social media, visit booksandroses.cat or use #BooksAndRoses.
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