Friday, April 23, 2010

Diada de Sant Jordi

Suck it Valentine's Day!

Today is Sant Jordi Day in Catalonia (or St. George's Day in England and elsewhere). It's the day that sees La Rambla in Barcelona packed with merchants selling books and roses to tens of thousands of people looking to honour their friends and lovers in a tradition which honours their Patron Saint, and has been for the last 575 years.

As Wikipedia puts it:
The main event is the exchange of gifts between sweethearts, loved ones and respected ones. Historically, men gave women roses, and women gave men a book to celebrate the occasion—"a rose for love and a book forever." In modern times, the mutual exchange of books is customary. Roses have been associated with this day since medieval times, but the giving of books is a more recent tradition originating in 1923 when a bookseller started to promote the holiday as a way to commemorate the nearly simultaneous deaths of Miguel Cervantes and William Shakespeare on April 23, 1616.
Today something like 20 million Euros worth of books and 5 million flowers will be sold, so it's definitely a commercialized holiday. But still, compare the exchange of items so simple as a rose and book to the vortex of commercialism on Valentine's Day in North America (see we even make sure to drop the "Saint" as much as we can). As much as Sant Jordi day reflects tradition and promotes a communal experience, Valentine's Day promotes disposable consumerism and empty gestures.

So from here on in, I officially transition my allegiances from the spurious Saint Valentine to the heroic Sant Jordi. I suggest you do the same. Or perhaps you celebrate Love Day with the Simpsons. That's fine by me too.

If you want to read more and can read Catalan (or Castilian), check out today's coverage in El PeriĆ³dico de Catalunya: Sant Jordi, de gom a gom.

And you can also follow the action via Twitter: