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Another Holiday?

Yep! It’s international book day

3rd Year Undergraduate Viola Performance


One of the things that was most surprising to me about the United States was the vast amount of random, peculiar, and sometimes made up holidays there are here: Earth Day, April Fool’s Day, Pi Day, Groundhog Day, Mole Day, Frog Jumping Day, Hug a Violist Day, etc. Despite the plethora of holidays, I was sad to find out that no one in my circle had ever heard of International Book Day, a celebration that I always enjoyed at home in Chile. Here is my attempt to change that by spreading awareness of this noble festivity that honors the chief icon of literature and what is still –in spite of technology– one of the most popular means for distributing knowledge.

What is it?

International Book and Copyright Day, celebrated on April 23, is an initiative led by UNESCO as a “worldwide tribute to books and their authors […], encouraging everyone, and in particular young people, to discover the pleasure of reading and to gain a renewed respect for the extraordinary contributions of those who have furthered the social and cultural progress of humanity.”

How can I celebrate?

  • Read a book! Be grateful for books, the people who write them, and the joy of reading! Here are some suggestions from UNESCO:
  • Share your passion for an author and offer his book to people around you! Accompany it with a rose! (My personal favorite!)
  • Take this opportunity to explore something different from what you’re used to read.
  • Leave a book on a park bench, on a seat on the T, or on a music stand with a note saying “Happy Book and Copyright Day!”
  • Never throw away your books! Donate them to a local library or book drive initiative.

Why April 23rd?

April 23 is a very special date for literature. 23 April 1616 was the date of death of William Shakespeare, Miguel de Cervantes, and El Inca Garcilaso de la Vega.* Shakespeare and Cervantes are regarded as the greatest authors of the English and Spanish languages respectively; while El Inca Garcilaso was the first exponent of the then budding Latin American literature. April 23 is also the birth and death date of many other authors, such as Maurice Druon, Halldór K. Laxness, Vladimir Nabokov, Josep Pla and Manuel Mejía Vallejo. On this day as well it is awarded in Alcalá de Henares, Spain the Miguel de Cervantes Prize. This is the most important literary distinction of the Spanish language, and it is awarded at a ceremony led by the King of Spain.

  • The coincidence of dates was actually not such (Aw! Sad face!). Cervantes died on 22 April 1616 and was buried on the 23rd. Also, back in 1616, England was still using the Julian calendar, as opposed to the Gregorian calendar which Spain was already using then and that we use today. Back then, the Julian calendar was 10 days behind the Gregorian, which means that Shakespeare actually died on May 3 of our calendar. But the fact that there is a coincidence because of various miscalculations is still really cool!


A Book and a Rose

In Catalonia, Spain, April 23 is also celebrated as the city’s patron saint, Saint George. Iconographic depictions of Saint George represent him slaying a dragon to spare the life of a young maiden. The legend says that on the spot where the dragon’s blood was spilled, a rose bloomed as a symbol of love and friendship. For this reason, on April 23 Catalonian lovers offer each other a book and a rose. It’s almost an equivalent of Valentine’s Day, but in April when the weather is much nicer than in February (at least in the northern hemisphere)! Just like on Valentine’s Day, you don’t need to have a significant other to celebrate Book Day this way: Give a book and a rose to your best friend, to someone you appreciate, or to someone you think would really enjoy or benefit from reading a book that has touched you.

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