When I think of World Book Day in the UK, I think of one of two things: every teacher in the English department taking fancy dress to a whole new level, strutting down the school hallways in DIY costumes to the bemusement of confused members of the Maths department, or reading the terms and conditions of the £1 book tokens our school gave us and realizing that no, we couldn’t add all the tokens together and get £8 off the latest Harry Potter book.
Around the world, World Book (and Copyright) Day is celebrated by millions of people in over 100 countries. Outside the UK, World Book Day is celebrated on the 23rd of April each year, a date which is regarded by book buffs as a symbolic day for world literature; on the 23rd of April 1616, literary legends Miguel de Cervantes, Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, and William Shakespeare, all died. Now that’s some spooky shit.
It's 20 years today since Romeo and Juliet came out (omg), and we all fell in love with Leonardo DiCaprio's beautiful face pic.twitter.com/MsuGZEsmdA
— Sugarscape (@sugarscape) November 1, 2016
But did you know that World Book Day is celebrated on a different day in the UK? Well, just like how the Queen has two birthdays, the UK likes to do things twice – double the celebration, double the cake.
This year, our World Book Day took place on Thursday 4th March. According to extremely trustworthy sources (Wikipedia), organizers in the UK moved the date to avoid clashes with the Easter school holidays and St George’s Day – because you know, we’re an extremely patriotic country. *rolls eyes*
On World Book Day in the UK, every child in full-time education receives a voucher to spend on books. It’s also tradition for English teachers to dress up as book characters, while kids are sent to school in whatever their parents could throw together with a week’s notice; one time I was the pig from Charlotte’s Web, another year I was a dalmatian from 101 Dalmatians – trust me, never was there a child more obsessed with that franchise. Here’s a photo of my best friend who is currently working as a Teaching Assistant, celebrating World Book Day this year.
Moving across the Mediterranean, Spain has been celebrating World Book Day for almost 100 years – ever since 1926. However, the day didn’t always fall on the 23rd of April. Instead, Spain used to celebrate World Book Day on the 7th of October, the date that Miguel de Cervantes was believed to have been born.
As per the rules of natural science, spring and summer in Spain are considerably warmer than autumn and winter – and in 1930, King Alfonso XIII realized this as well. Alfonso believed the springtime weather was much more suited for walking and browsing books in the open-air, than the weather in the fall. So, after just four years of celebrating the bookish event, Alfonso changed the date of World Book Day so his good people wouldn’t be too cold when they spent an hour contemplating whether they even needed the book in the first place, took it home to put on their already overflowing bookshelf, and then never picked it up again. Truly a man of the people.
so i just realized that buying books and actually reading them are two completely different hobbies
— neni (@nenithealien) April 14, 2021
In the Spanish region of Catalonia – home of Barcelona – World Book Day coincides with La Diada de Sant Jordi – also known as St George’s Day, and the patron saint of Catalonia. On this day, it’s traditional for boys to give girls red roses, and for girls to give boys a book in return. The tradition grew from the legend that states Sant Jordi slew a dragon to save his princess and a single red rose appeared in the pools of the beast’s blood.
Since Sant Jordi began, things have come a long way, and it’s now not unusual for girls to receive books as well as roses. Thank god, I was beginning to wonder if it sounded too self-centered to want both gifts.
I just learned about Dia de Sant Jordi in my Catalan class and honestly I’ve never fallen more in love with a festival. The Catalans give red roses and books to one another, some people dress in medieval clothing and they celebrate the story of St Jordi slaying a dragon. Enamorat pic.twitter.com/6WzCYXCZ24
— Kitty Ní Houlihán (@gaeilgwhore) April 20, 2021
Elsewhere around the world, the origins of World Book Day have been reasonably drama-free. In Sweden, Världsbokdagen is typically celebrated on the 23rd of April, however, the day was moved to the 13th of the same month in the year 2000 and 2011 to avoid clashing with Easter. And in Kensington, Maryland, U.S.A, the International Day of the Book is celebrated hand in hand with a street festival on the Sunday closest to the 26th of April. But apart from that, World Book Day has been one of the smoother running international events.
In its essence, World Book Day is a day to celebrate books; it’s a day to encourage children to keep reading, and for adults to realize they probably shouldn’t have given up reading in the first place. And with schools around the world joining in with the celebrations, World Book Day is a great way for children and young people of all ages and across all countries, to have unparalleled access to the infinite worlds beneath the written page.
So go on, stop reading this article and pick up that copy of The Hunger Games I just know is staring at you from across the room.
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