The delight of curling up with a nice book is one of the worthiest luxuries in life. And those who have not been party yet to this amazing feeling of serendipitous essence sure are missing out on the ultimate magic of life. Books are a world of their own. They emanate a warmth, they lend you a nostalgia inexplicable, they let you fantasise your life away and then transport you to the utopia land you forever want to remain confined in. And the wide world of captivation that books hold in their embrace has lent them to be celebrated in a special day on their special day.
April 23rd is World Book and Copyright Day, an observance that has seen frenzied celebration by bibliophiles the world over since 1995. The United National Educational, Scientific, Cultural and Research Organization (UNESCO) is the body that brought this celebration of reading, publishing and copyright to the global fore even when such a tradition had been in existence long back.
Specifically in Spain, the tradition of celebrating books has a long drawn history. Every year the observance of St. George’s Day sees the Catalonia region indulge in its fantasy with books. Normally celebrated on the 23rd of April, the event has been a regular feature since atleast 1436 before it took over the world as the International Day of the Book. Traditional customs pertaining to the St. George’s Day in Spain, Catalonia in particular, are closely connected to romance. (After all, romance is never more dreamier than it is in books!) Boys give girls a rose and the girls return the love with a book. In fact, Saint Jordi’s day is almost christened as Catalan lovers’ day (el dia dels enamorats)! But while this is a delightful custom in all its magical charms, it wasn’t books and loves all throughout.
Books became an integral part of the April 23 celebrations even in Spain only in the late 1920s- 1926 to be precise. The onus rests on Valencian writer Vicente Clavel Andrés who came up with this novel idea as a tribute to author Miguel de Cervantes on his birth date October 7. The commemoration was later moved to April 23 as it was the death date of not just Cervantes but a couple of other literary geniuses’ as well.
The death anniversary of William Shakespeare and William Wordsworth and a host of other literary dignitaries, April 23 became the chosen date also by UNESCO to celebrate the wonderful world of books. Thus the Day of the Roses became the World Book Day in popular culture that is now celebrated all over.
However, even when April 23 persists as the date of extreme significance in the literary world, quite a few countries have their own celebrations of World Book Day on separate dates. The United States of America for instance holds this particular celebration with a street festival on the Sunday closest to 26 April. The United Kingdom and Ireland on the other hand celebrates books yearly as a charity event in March on the first Thursday of the month.
April 23 in these European countries rather sees the celebration of the day as World Book Night. Sweden on the other hand observes its own World Book Day as Världsbokdagen on 23rd April which however is subject to change as per Easter celebrations.
It is heartwarming that even in a world wholly susceptible to the many invasions of technology, books have managed to retain their otherworldly charm. In fact the success of the World Book Day has been so reassuring that UNESCO even came up with the concept of World Book Capital in 2001. A World Book Capital is chosen every year that which strives to make books accessible to all in the city for an entire 365 days. This time it is Kuala Lumpur which holds the distinction to honour the responsibility to spread the light of knowledge all throughout specially in dark times like these when the whole world is in a crisis. Safe World Book Day to you all!