The date is a two-fold celebration honoring St. Jordi (George), the patron Saint of Catalonia famous for protecting lovers, and Book Day, a global acknowledgment of the importance of books in the proliferation of education and information. The unique event is a worldwide celebration; people from Spain to La Jolla will exchange books and deliver roses to their sweethearts.
According to Pence Hodges, Warwick’s Marketing Coordinator, owner Nancy Warwick visited Barcelona, Spain, on St. Jordi’s Day and decided to host St. Jordi’s Day as a community event in La Jolla.
“Nancy enjoyed the event so much, she thought it would be a good fit for a neighborhood bookstore,” he said. “St. Jordi’s Day is a literary-based festival of books. It’s also the day that celebrates love. People exchange roses and books.”
The history of sharing of roses dates back to the 15th Century. Many historical facts, mythical legends, and fabled tales, surround St. Jordi and the genesis of the gesture. One such tale has St. Jordi slaying a dragon to release a princess from its deadly grip. A red rose bush sprouted from the dragon’s blood. St. Jordi plucked a rose to give to the princess.
Another Western version depicts the story of a dragon nesting at a spring that provided water for the town. In some tales, the dragon poisoned the town air. The townspeople tried to remove the monster from its nest by offering a sheep or a virgin chosen by a lottery system. When the King’s daughter was selected, St. George, who happened to be crossing into town, killed the dragon and freed the princess. The kingdom converted to Christianity. The most popular figure of St. Jordi shows him slaying the dragon with a sword while riding his white horse.
St. Jordi’s Christian legend is the most factual with just as many stories that continued after his death. St. George was born circa 280 A.D. in Cappadocia, the son of a Roman officer and his Greek wife, both Christians from noble families. Circa 300 A.D. George served as an Imperial Guard, a Tribunus for Diocletian, the Emperor of Nicodema.
Known to hate Christians, the Emperor did everything to get St. George to persecute his fellow Christians. Despite the Emperor’s severe torture tactics, St. George refused to deny his faith or persecute Christians. Enraged, Diocletian decapitated the martyr on April 23, 303 A.D.
As a result of his death, St. Jordi was chosen as patron saint of the Knights of the Byzantine Empire. It is also believed that St. George appeared to English soldiers at the Battle of Antioch. Thus, he was named the patron saint of England in 1098. In addition to Catalonia, St. Jordi is noted as the patron saint of England, Georgia, Greece and Serbia.
The tradition of exchanging books dates back to the 1920s. To honor the death of Shakespeare, England declared April 23 as Book Day. In 1926, Spain followed suit to commemorate the death of Miguel de Cervantes, which coincidentally landed on the same day. In 1995, UNESCO also declared April 23 as World Book and Copyright Day.