For years, even decades, we have not conceived the feast of St. George
without its two essential elements: the book and the rose. But they did not always go hand in hand. What’s more, they didn’t even start sharing the celebration, although finally on April 23 it ended up uniting them forever.
Which of them started first conquering the hearts of Barcelonans? If we let logic choose, it will surely bet on the rose, present in our society long before the book, a recently popularized asset. And you won’t be wrong.
We must go back to the fifteenth century. Already at that time there is evidence of a rose fair that was held in the vicinity of the Palau de la Generalitat coinciding with Sant Jordi. It was known as lto the lovers’ fair.
In the 17th century, the custom of giving a rose to women who attended the Eucharist officiated in the chapel of Sant Jordi of the palace, as explained by Carme Polo and Ricard Lobo in the book Sant Jordi, books and roses (Vienna editions), presented this week and that explains the history of the holiday.
The authors give more details. “Until 1840 the fair of the roses had been held in Carrer del Bisbe, Plaça de Sant Jaume and also exclusively within the courtyard of the Palau General.” It was frequented by wedding couples or newlyweds. The man was giving his girlfriend a bouquet of red roses, a symbol of passion. With the Commonwealth, in 1914, the tradition was extended to the rest of the population, with or without love.
The arrival of the book
And the book? It would still take time. In fact, it was not until 1926 when the first book party was held, promoted by the writer and editor Vicent Clavel Andrés, according to Polo and Lobo. Passionate about Cervantes’ literature, he chose the date of his birth for the celebration: October 7.
But that day he did not fully convince the sector, which was in the middle of the school book campaign. And besides, the autumn temperatures were not very suitable for browsing books. Conclusion: better to change the date. And from birth, it passed to the death of Cervantes, or, rather, to the day of the burial. In 1930, a royal decree of Alfonso XIII established that Book Day be celebrated on April 23, which was applied the following year, in 1931, despite the arrival of the republic nine days earlier.
And that’s when the books and the roses met po
r the first time, although the irony of fate wanted it to rain that first day. The infatuation was immediate and still lasts. Of course, there have been some infidelities with the date. Sometimes, when Sant Jordi fell on Sunday or Easter Monday, the day of the Book would be celebrated on the 22nd or even the day of the Virgin of Montserrat, on April 27. Not to mention the July 23 that we are dealing with this year because of the coronavirus. But the most important thing is that the roses and the books never give up despite the adversities.
What makes you celebrate Sant Jordi in a pandemic season?
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