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Travel Virtually To Spain’s Catalunya Region For Sant Jordi’s Holiday And Three-Day World Book Festival

In years past, throngs of visitors traveled to Barcelona and its surrounding region of Catalunya (Catalonia) to experience Sant Jordi’s Festival, a combined celebration of love and literature. While the actual celebration has been postponed to July 23 due to the global pandemic, local residents and institutions are banding together to commemorate the April 23 holiday in creative and virtual ways.

José Andrés, culinary innovator and founder of World Central Kitchen, who grew up in Catalunya, remembers the holiday as, “The day when love and culture come together.” 

The celebration takes its inspiration from the tale of Saint George known in Catalan as Sant Jordi, Patron Saint of the region since the 15th century. Legend has it, the slain dragon’s blood was transformed into red roses, thus inspiring men to offer roses to their beloved. In the 1920s, the Catalan Booksellers’ Association imagined women could respond with the gift of a book and the Sant Jordi Book Festival was launched. World Book Day, a UNESCO endeavor, also falls on April 23.

While book and flower stalls will not line Las Ramblas this year, Antoni Gaudi’s Museum Casa Batlló launched a social media campaign asking residents to decorate balconies and windows with roses created from recycled material.

In addition, about 100 flower shops in Barcelona will be open to deliver flowers. The Guild of Booksellers and the Guild of Florists have launched #SantJordiAlsBalcons to encourage families to decorate their balconies with drawings of dragons, roses and book covers as well as reading at their windows and use #LibresALAire (books outside).

A book festival dedicated to world literature and translation, originally planned for New York City, has migrated online and will be streaming at santjordinyc.org, eight hours a day from April 23 to 25. Armchair travelers will follow readings and conversations by such authors and translators as Amin Maalouf, Sophie Hugues and Jordi Punti.

“While Catalunya celebrates its traditional holiday indoors this year,” said Mr. Andrés, “We can still peek in and share its spirit of joy.”

Follow Sant Jordi’s celebrations in Spain at booksandroses.cat

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