Let's give all health workers a safe Sant Jordi's day

2 min
Book stall outside the Central bookstore

The festival of Sant Jordi has always been characterised by an exceptional normality: it is a festival on a working day, it is a day when we all buy books and roses as if they were objects of basic consumption, it is a day when the street is tinged with joy without completely breaking with everyday life, it is a day when life takes place more in the street than indoors, when families and friends pay special attention for each other, when smiles are the norm. Sant Jordi is, in itself, an annual collective representation of how we would like to be: for a few hours we behave and portray ourselves as a cultured, civic, friendly society. This is what we want to experience again this year.

Last year the ritual was interrupted for the first time. It was a hard blow: we were all locked up and upset because of the pandemic. This 2021 has therefore an extra meaning: recovering the festival, experiencing again its exceptional normality. The desire for Sant Jordi is palpable. Wearing a mask, keeping our distance and avoiding crowds, this April 23rd we will meet again with a singular tradition, admired everywhere -it has been a few years since UNESCO declared it International Book Day- and lived intensely from the inside, a festival that combines culture, sentimentality, commerce, revindication and media show. Yes, we want to experience all this again.

Years go by, new technologies burst in that were supposed to put an end to the printed book, we suffer pandemics, and in spite of everything, the festival of books and roses maintains its civic vitality and adapts to all circumstances: even in 2020 a fairly successful replica was held in summer. In fact, in the end, despite covid, in 2020 disaster in the book trade was avoided and ended the year with a drop in sales of fiction of only 5%. This was thanks to the fact that during the second part of the year there was a great comeback, as if people had recovered the taste and habit of reading. This Sant Jordi we will see to what extent this is consolidated. The reality is that we are far from being a country of readers and, therefore, there is much room for improvement.

This trial of a festival in semi-normality is a double opportunity: to reinforce the general awareness that books make us freer people - hopefully in the post-pandemic world we will make this a priority - and to start to win back the street and sociability, always with prudence as the threat of a fourth wave of covid demands if things are not done properly. Because the battle against the virus is not yet won: mass vaccination in the coming weeks and months has to be the push we need. If the dragon is the virus, Sant Jordi must help us to kill it, or at least start the countdown, the final stretch of this medical, scientific and social war. What it surely cannot mean is a step backwards. So, let's go out and enjoy the day, let's give (and read) books, let's give roses, but let's not risk our own health or that of others. Let us also give all health workers a safe holiday.