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 precise Catalonian custom, however quaint and colorful, is pretty sexist and needs updating. But if it is altered slightly, I think we have here a commemoration worth widely adopting.
I propose 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?
It isn’t too late even this year. After all, we could start with a vague St. George’s season (and the Eastern Orthodox observe dates other than April 23). But next year we could push to make it really big.
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