Give a Book and a Rose to a Lover for George’s Day, April 23

Reprinted from last spring. Bookstores and bibliophiles: time to get working on this–advertising, word of mouth, etc. for this year..

There is a delightful custom in Barcelona. On April 23, St. George’s Day, men give their girlfriends or wives a rose. And the women give their male beloved a book. The gift of the book is said to have been initiated in 1926 as a commemoration of Cervantes, the author of Don Quixote

The rose is more traditional. It is said that after St. George killed the dragon to save the maiden, a droplet of its blood sprouted into a rose.

Perhaps under Catalonian influence, April 23 has already been adopted by UNESCO as the International Day of the Book. However, I don’t think very many people know about this day.

The advantage of the way the Barcelonans do it is that it ties book-giving to individual romance, and so makes it universal. Obviously the traditional Catalonian custom, however quaint and colorful, had been sexist. Among most couples nowadays, each gives both a book and a rose to the other.

I propose that this updated way of doing it be widely adopted, that whoever loves someone else romantically of any sex give the loved one both a book and a rose for George’s Day.

If we do it that way, I think George’s Day could be promulgated successfully as a day internationally observed by individuals, just as Valentine’s Day has become.

April 23 has the advantage of falling at a time of year when there is little to drive customers to bookstores. Moreover, despite UNESCO’s effort, there is no popularly recognized special day for book-buying. One can give a book on lots of occasions, but it is just one possible gift among many. Having a special day on which only a book will do as a gift would be a great good thing. And, of course, buying someone a Kindle file would also work.

It is true that St. George is a Catholic saint and so on the surface not suited to universal commemoration. But I know of nothing objectionable about him, and the main legend associated with him is that of killing the dragon. That is of course a mythic deed common in world mythology– Indra and Vrta, Faridun and Zohak, Thor and the Midgaard serpent. Killing the dragon of ignorance on behalf of the Book is a universal.

Besides, in the US we don’t have a problem widely commemorating St. Valentine’s Day. And then there is our appropriation from Catholic sources of St. Patrick’s Day, Cinco de Mayo, Mardi Gras, and virtually any other excuse to get tipsy, so why not at least put one saint to literate use?

What say you, bloggers and bibliophiles? Shall we push George’s Day, April 23, with all the vigor that the jewelers put into Valentine’s Day?

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6 Responses

  1. Great idea. One small detail. The Fifth of May in greater Mexico is a secular holiday commemorating Benito Juarez's victory over the French at the Battle of Puebla. I don't think it really fits in with festivals adapted from the Catholic calendar. These days, of course, beer companies mostly own the Fifth of May.

  2. It's wonderful and clever. If international book day is not catching on, adding romance will.  And there is propably nothing better than books and words to kill the dragon of ignorance. 
    I will spread the word.  St. George's day is the " Give your loved one a book and rose day ". Leila.    

  3. I'm in. Let's be flexible and modern and include audiobooks.

  4. April 23 is the anniversary of the death of Cervantes, which may be why the tradition started in Barcelona, but it's also the day of Shakespeare's death (and England's national saint's day), and thus eminently suitable for an extension of the tradition to the English-speaking world. Cervantes and Shakespeare, incredibly, both died on April 23, 1616.

  5. I think this is a wonderful idea. In the past, when a book has been gifted to me by a man with romantic intent, he has almost always received a green light into my heart. It is incredibly thoughtful, especially in that it forces one to think deeply about the other's interests and passions.

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