Over the years, I’ve written about Sant Jordi many times, so this is a mash-up of several oldish pieces.
El dia de Sant Jordi is a standout day in Catalonia, a not-to-be missed blend of fun and romance, culture and the hard-headed business sense that is said to be so typical of the Catalans. Sant Jordi (St George) is the patron saint of Catalonia and his day, 23 April, which is also the anniversary of both Shakespeare’s and Cervantes’ death (although this is now disputed) is celebrated by giving gifts of books and roses.
What makes Sant Jordi such an inspired combination of money-making, culture and entertainment is that it’s not actually a public holiday, so everyone is helplessly sucked in as they go about their usual business. Publishers save up their Big Launches for 23 April, booksellers rub their hands in excitement and organize VIP signings. All the bookshops set up stands in the streets and squares complete with buckets of red roses. Literary supplements roll off the presses. It’s a field day for journalists and chat-show hosts, too, with round-the-clock live TV coverage. The hawkers and panhandlers make a killing selling roses. And there are charity events, like massive book collections for hospitals. And discos and shows, dances and parties, fireworks and raffles.
If we really must talk in cliches, then the Catalans have clearly added a whole new dimension to the expression ‘laughing all the way to the bank.’
I don’t think much has changed, except for the advent of digital roses. Pity we can’t smell them. Anyway, if you’ve survived the crowds today, tell us what you think.