In honor of Miguel de Cervantes and William Shakespeare, today is St. George’s Day (La Diada de Sant Jordi in Catalan), a beautiful holiday celebrated in Barcelona through the exchange of books and roses.
Like Valentine’s Day in the U.S., the holiday is meant to be spent with your special someone. According to Catalan tradition, a man buys a rose for a woman and a woman buys a book for a man. In modern times, the tradition is often broken and men and women give books and roses to their special someone.
Where did the tradition begin? Cervantes.org explains: “A smart bookseller began to promote the holiday in 1923 as a way to honor the simultaneous deaths of the two greatest men of literature: Spain’s Miguel de Cervantes and Britain’s William Shakespeare, both deceased on April 23, 1616 … In Las Ramblas, Barcelona’s principal street, as well as all over the city, hundreds of flower stands selling roses and makeshift bookstalls are hastily set up for the occasion. By the end of the day, some four million roses and 400,000 books are purchased in the name of love, registering half of the total yearly book sales of Catalonia on this day alone!”