Día del libro

Books, glorious books!

Madrid-ground once more, I eased back into the school year with the celebration of my favorite Spanish holiday, Día del libro. Spain started celebrating Book Day, picking abril to honor the death of Miguel de Cervantes. UNESCO championed the holiday, and now World Book and Copyright Day, as it’s officially known, is (kind of) celebrated internationally on April 23.

This was my second year to see the holiday come and go. Like last year, the capital was ablaze with different literary offerings and events: there were poetry readings, bookstores touted savings, and Gran Vía became a string of book vendors. I can only imagine how popular the event is in Catalonia, where the holiday originates.

Last year I wrote an e-mail to my college Spanish lit professor with the subject line of–what else?–“Día del libro”:

Last month Madrid had a “Día del Libro,” a now-annual tradition which springs from Cataluña’s Día de Sant Jordi (St. George)….Since this particular holiday took place over Semana Santa, my high school celebrated it at a later time. They focused on three Spanish writers—Unamuno, Valle-Inclán, and Lorca—who died exactly 75 years ago. Leading up to the big day, students had to make posters detailing the lives and work of these writers.

 On the actual day of the event, we filed into the gym. Nearly all of the students—grades 6 to12—were involved in some way in performances. There were poetry recitations, PowerPoints about the artists, a play from “La Casa de Bernarda Alba,” and even a recitation set to guitar music. Perhaps the most popular performers were a group of four boys who paired Lorca’s “Romance de la luna” with their favorite music by making it into a rap.

 The whole affair lasted over two hours. I was proud of my group when they recited an English translation of one of Lorca’s works (in the end it was more like Lorca Day than Unamuno or Valle-Inclán Day.) During the performances I couldn’t help but wonder how something like this would have gone over in the states.

While this year our high school didn’t have a school-wide presentation,  Día del libro brought a book exchange to the teacher’s lounge:

A Manuel Rivas for a Carmen Laforet = A win-win situation

As with most holidays, one could argue that the commercialness detracts from the sentiments of the day. However, with the author research projects, school events, and book exchange, I’d say the staff at my school did an excellent job of celebrating the holiday without dragging money into the mix. ¡A celebrar!

What’s your take on the holiday? If you live in Spain, how do you celebrate?

“Tell me what you read and I’ll tell you who you are”

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  1. Cindy

    Yeah for Books! Too bad this holiday hasn’t caught on in the states. Maybe your dad and I can implement this tradition in our classes someday!

  2. Is the commercialness so bad, though? I guess as I “meterme” deeper and deeper into the world of writing, I’ve realized how under-appreciated (and underpaid, really) writing and writers are – especially as the digital age tends to devalue good writing. So yeah, I guess I’m a big fan of a day that celebrates writing and encourages people to support it :).

  3. Hi there, I was lucky to experience Día de Sant Jordi in Barcelona, what a wonderful day! (Feel free to visit my piece of the web if you wanna see!) It was very very (very!) crowded, but I loved how it was all about books and roses. Everywhere!

  4. Cassandra

    Erin – You raise some great points! Coming from a family of readers, I typically don’t have qualms spending money on books. And you are right, authors deserve to be supported. Teaching in a working-class neighborhood, however, I really liked the various way my school encouraged both students and staff to explore the literary world.

    New Life – I checked out your entry on Sant Jordi’s Day, how nice it must have been to be in Barcelona on that day. Can’t believe those lines, wow!

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