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Valentine’s Day, February 14, is right around the corner and stores are packed with red and pink boxes of chocolates, cards, and gifts. It’s a day when people here and all over the world celebrate love, family, and friendship. Overall, Valentine’s Day is a time for people to express their love and affection for one another. In the United States and other places in the world, people of all ages exchange cards, flowers, candy, and gifts in the name of St. Valentine. But, traditions for this day can be different according to each continent and country.
Just like we have holidays in the United States where there are specific traditions, Latin Americans also honor both their own holidays as well as those shared by the U.S. with specific traditions. Join our team of native Spanish translators as they look at how Valentine’s Day is celebrated in a few Spanish-speaking countries and how it may be different from the way we celebrate it here.
Valentine’s Day in Latin America
History of Valentine’s Day in Latin America
Surprisingly, the origins of celebrating Valentine’s Day in many countries are religious. In the 3rd century, there was a Roman Catholic priest named Valentin who married Christian couples. But, in the early days of Christianity, life wasn’t easy for followers of Jesus because they were persecuted for their beliefs. Valentine became a martyr for Christianity and was canonized by Pope Gelasius I in 496 AD.
Since then he has been known as Saint Valentine. Although Catholicism is the predominant religion in Latin America, the celebration of Valentine’s Day in its present form has very little to do with religion. Like Santa Claus, Saint Valentine has been secularized and become part of folk tradition and even pop culture.
Guatemala City – Old Love Parade
In Guatemala, Valentine’s Day is known as Día del Cariño (‘Affection Day’). Guatemala City, Guatemala commemorates the day with festive floats that carry the town’s senior citizens through the streets wearing colorful costumes, celebrating love. It is an affectionate affair that is about friendship and family. Guatemalans exchange flowers, chocolates, and cards like in the U.S., but with friends as well as admirers.
Peru – Peruvian Orchids
Peru considers February 14 a public holiday since Carnaval occurs during the holiday of love. Peruvians celebrate Valentine’s Day with large festivals and weddings. Instead of roses, like in the U.S., they exchange orchids, a native flower in Peru.
Dominican Republic and El Salvador – Angelito
In El Salvador, one of the Valentine’s Day traditions is to have an “Angelito,” a game played by drawing names and exchanging gifts in a tradition known as “Amigo Secreto,” Secret Friend. The game is very similar to the Secret Santa gift exchange played in the U.S. at Christmas. Roses, stuffed animals, and chocolates decorate all the restaurants and stores. In the Dominican Republic, those who celebrate Valentine’s Day typically exchange “cariñitos,” which are gifts of love that can be shared among couples, families, and friends.
Valentine’s Day in Mexico
In Mexico, they celebrate El Dia de San Valentin, more commonly referred to as El Dia del Amor y la Amistad. People give chocolates, balloons, and gifts but the emphasis is on celebrating friendships, not sweethearts. Like Christmas traditions in Mexico, Valentine’s Day includes delicious food and time spent with loved ones. Mexican Valentine’s Day traditions allocate the time between February 14th to the 16th to spend with friends and family, socializing with dinners or on the beach. Mariachi bands are plenty busy during this time.
There is a special saying in Mexico on Valentine’s Day, “Regale aprecio, no lo compre.” The message behind this phrase is to give away your affection instead of buying it. So, rather than buying extravagant gifts at the most expensive stores, Mexicans enjoy creating artistic gifts to show their love.
Valentine’s Day in Colombia
Colombia celebrated the typical Valentine’s Day on February 14 until the 1960s. At that time, a group of merchants said that the first quarter of the year was not a good time to have the holiday because taxes were higher at that time and people were spending less. With no other holidays in September, it was decided the day would be in that month.
Colombians don’t just celebrate one day of love, but entire months of love and friendship, ending the third Saturday in September with the day of love and friendship called Dia de Amor y Amistad. The third Saturday in September can fall anywhere from September 15 to September 21. Bolivia celebrates on September 21. Colombians wholeheartedly approach Valentine’s Day as they do Halloween and Christmas. Traditions include gift-giving and festivities are similar to other countries. The entire weekend and weeks before, you see decorations of red and white hearts in restaurants, shops, and even homes to honor Amor Y Amistad. For Bolivians, September 21 is the first day of the spring season.
Many special promotions are held in bars and restaurants with women drinking for free and two-for-one meals. Love and friendship are embraced with festivities. Toasting friends with a cup of aguardiente, an anise-flavored alcoholic drink also called “firewater” or a glass of beer is a tradition in Colombia.
Colombians like to celebrate Valentine’s Day in the following ways, which aren’t so different from the U.S. and other places:
- Giving chocolates and roses
- Cooking a delicious homemade meal
- Spending time with friends and family
- Having an adventure
- Taking the day off from work
Valentine’s Day in Spanish: How to Translate
Spanish is such a beautiful language that we wanted to present some of the ways to say “I love you” and other romantic phrases.
The quick way to say “I love you” in Spanish is Te Quiero or Te Amo. Te quiero is literally translated as “I want you” and is more common than te amo. People use te quiero with family members, pets, friends, or significant others. Te amo is mostly used for your spouse, significant other, or someone special. This phrase is usually used to profess romantic love, although in Mexico it is also used with family members.
Phrases that Show Love and Affection
Other phrases that express love and affection include the following:
|Te quiero mucho.
|I love you a lot.
|A stronger te quiero
|Xoxo or lyl
|TQM stands for te quiero mucho and is used in texts and emails.
|I adore you.
|This is similar to te amo in that it is reserved for someone you have romantic feelings for.
|I like you./I find you attractive.
|Commonly used to tell someone you have a crush on them.
|I miss you.
|In some countries, such as Spain, you can also say Te echo de menos.
|Estoy enamorado de ti.
|I’m in love with you.
|Use this version if you are a male.
|Estoy enamorada de ti.
|I’m in love with you.
|Use this version if you are a female.
|Besos y a abrazos.
|Another common way of ending a message when chatting with friends. You can also use besos (kisses), abrazos (hugs), un beso (literally, a kiss), or un abrazo (literally, a hug).
Terms of Endearment
|sweetie or darling
|dear or honey
|corazón de melón
Contact English to Spanish Raleigh for Your Translation Needs
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