This year World Book Day is celebrated on Monday 23rd April. This is now a truly worldwide event and as such is recognized by UNESCO. As a day to celebrate books and reading this goes back to 1923 when a Barcelona bookstore owner chose this day to promote reading. However the origins go back a great deal further. 23rd April was chosen as this is the day on which Miguel de Cervantes died. It is also the date of the birth and death of Shakespeare. So quite an appropriate choice for an international book day. The choice of 23rd April was even more appropriate for Catalans and for the other parts of Spain which used to form the Kingdom of Aragon – for 23rd April is St George’s Day, Sant Jordi in catalan, and the patron saint of all the lands which made up the old Kingdom of Aragon. Traditionally this was a day for an exchange of gifts between lovers and sweethearts a rose for the woman and a book for the man.
It is a pretty good and charming custom which is still alive in Catalunya. I like the idea of combining a rose and a book and there is no need to exchange them with others. Why not just treat yourself to a rose and a book? In the UK for some reason World Book Day is held sometime in March, but this year 23rd April is also World Book Night. This is a relatively new initiative which involves giving away 1,000,000 books. 25 books have been selected and special editions have been printed for distribution. Some go to individuals who get 24 copies of a book which they then have to hand out to 24 people. Last year one of the members of our reading group participated in this and we all got a free copy of One Day by David Nicholls. This year in addition to the UK – Ireland, Germany and the USA will celebrate World Book Night. For more information about World Book Night here is the UK website. You can access more information about World Book Day here.
A Happy Sant Jordi/St George’s Day to everyone and may it include a lovely book and a rose.