Sant Jordi: Buying Books to Promote Catalan Wine
Sant Jordi, “the Catalan Valentine’s Day” is just around the corner. Not familiar with it? It’s one of Catalunya’s most unique and emblematic holidays, and here’s how Wikipedia sums it up:
La Diada de Sant Jordi, also known as el dia de la rosa (The Day of the Rose) or el dia del llibre (The Day of the Book) is a Catalan holiday celebrated on April 23 similar to St. Valentine’s Day with some unique twists that show the ancient practice of this day. 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. In 1923, a bookseller started to promote the holiday as a way to honour the nearly simultaneous deaths of Miguel Cervantes and William Shakespeare on April 23, 1616. Barcelona is the publishing capital in both Catalan and Spanish and this heady one-two punch of love and literacy was quickly adopted.
On Barcelona’s most visited street, La Rambla, and all over Catalonia, thousands of stands of roses and makeshift bookstalls are hastily set up for the occasion. By the end of the day, some four million roses and 800,000 books would have been purchased in the name of love. You will be hard-pressed to find a woman without a rose in hand, and half of the total yearly book sales in Catalonia take place on this occasion.
This holiday is so “cute” to me. Annoying term, I know, but I can’t find another word to describe it. Charming, perhaps? I don’t know, it’s just so much more likeable than Valentine’s Day in my opinion. However, I’d rather get books than roses.
This year, Sant Jordi has a culinary twist. The Union of Booksellers of Catalunya are helping promote Catalan wine, in particular D.O. Catalunya labels, through the sales of books for the holiday. They’re calling the initiative “Setmana de la Cultura i el Vi Català” (Culture and Catalan Wine Week) and here’s how it works: buy a book for Sant Jordi and get 10% off any D.O. Catalunya wine until April 29th. That’s not a very juicy discount, but hey, it might spur more people to move towards the consumption of Catalan wines.
Contrary to what you might think, it’s not a given that Catalan people drink more local wine than other Spanish labels. In fact, in my experience it’s been just the opposite: I see more Rioja on tables in homes than anything else. You’ll sometimes get a popular D.O. Catalunya like Sangre de Toro or the stray Penedés, but amazing D.O.s like Conca de Barbera and Empordá tend to be less present. The reason? They tend to be more expensive.
Let’s hope more initiatives like this one pop up to promote Catalan wine in Catalunya…and abroad!
Oh, and if you’re in Barcelona and want to participate in the promotion, swing by KnowFood (map), an awesome culinary bookstore in the Grácia neighborhood and get yourself a cookbook — then buy some wine.
Image by Infollatus via Creative Commons on Flickr
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