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Published on Apr 25, 2009
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.