Love in Spanish: Unique Valentine’s Day Traditions in Latin America
Valentine’s Day in Latin America is a popular holiday that’s celebrated all across the region.
Of course, each Latin American nation has a different approach and its own unique customs and traditions.
Keep reading to discover all about Valentine’s Day in Latin America, the origins of this international holiday, and five of the most unique Valentine’s Day traditions in Latin America.
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Brief History of Valentine’s Day in Latin America
It may surprise you that the origins of this celebration that takes place in many countries worldwide are religious.
In the 3rd century, there was a man named Valentine, and he was a Roman Catholic priest who used to marry Christian couples, hence its association with love.
However, in those early days of Christianity, life wasn’t easy for the followers of Jesus, who were persecuted for their beliefs.
Valentine himself became a martyr for Christianity and was canonized by Pope Gelasius I in 496 AD. Since then, he’s 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 little to do with religion.
People might argue that Saint Valentine, just like Santa Claus, has been secularized and has become part of folk tradition and even pop culture.
Valentine’s Day Names in Latin America
Let’s now take a closer look at how people celebrate Valentine’s Day in Latin America.
In Mexico, Valentine’s Day is known as Día del Amor y la Amistad or “Day of Love and Friendship.” You will also hear people call it Día de San Valentín, which literally translates to St. Valentine’s Day.
Due to its proximity to the U.S., Mexico is hugely influenced by American traditions, which means that Mexicans and Americans celebrate Valentine’s Day similarly.
Mexicans buy flowers, chocolates, cards, teddy bears, and balloons for their significant other or to close friends.
In Mexico, exchanging presents with your best friends is common on this day.
Colombia has the particularity of celebrating Valentine’s Day not in February, like most countries, but in September, with the start of the Southern Hemisphere Spring.
They call it Día de Amor y Amistad, without the “L” included in the Mexican version.
In Guatemala, Valentine’s Day is simply called Día del Cariño, which is definitely our favorite name for this celebration in Spanish, and it translates as “Day of Affection.”
Guatemalans even organize the traditional “Old Love Parade,” where senior citizens dress in colorful outfits in a celebration of love.
You might like: Estudiantes desfilan por Día del Cariño en Cobán
3 Unique Valentine’s Day Traditions in Latin America
Yes, in many cases, Valentine’s Day in Latin America involves similar gifts and other displays of affection.
However, we can see unique romantic gestures on this day throughout the region.
1. Colombian Secret Friend
In addition to celebrating this lovely holiday in September, Colombians play a little game they like to build up the excitement in the days before Valentine’s Day.
The game is called amigo secreto o amigo invisible, which means “secret friend or invisible friend.”
To play this game, you must be part of a group at work or school or get together with friends. Each person gets randomly assigned a secret friend and must send them little presents every day, leading to Valentine’s Day.
Sometimes, people leave clues about their identities, but that’s not required. Then, when the big day arrives, each person reveals their amigo secreto and gives them a big present.
2. Peruvian Orchids
In Perú, Valentine’s Day coincides with a carnival, and it’s both a public holiday and a huge celebration of love. What makes Peruvian Valentine’s Day different is that instead of giving roses to their loved ones, people give orchids.
There are plenty of orchids in Perú, and their beauty and diversity of forms and colors make them the perfect gift for such an important occasion.
3. Argentinian Sweet Week
Argentina is famous for being a passionate country. Tango, which is arguably the most passionate music ever made, comes from Argentina. This is not a coincidence.
So, it’s not surprising that Argentinian people celebrate Valentine’s Day not once but twice a year. On February 14th, Argentinians celebrate their Valentine’s Day similarly to those in the U.S. and other Western countries.
Then, in July, they celebrate the Semana de la Dulzura or “Sweet Week,” which consists of seven days, and during that week, Argentinians exchange sweets for kisses.
What a great country, right?
You might like: Semana de la dulzura: cuándo empieza y cuáles son las mejores frases y cajas de golosinas para regalar
Other Ways To Celebrate Valentine’s Day in Latin America
There are many ways to celebrate Valentine’s Day.
We included just some of the most common gifts and romantic gestures people in Latin America give each other that day.
However, if you really want to celebrate this international holiday like a Latin American, you must do one or more of the following Valentine’s Day traditions:
- Go to the beach or the mountains for a romantic getaway, as Costa Ricans do.
- Or copy a Mexican tradition and enjoy a romantic dinner with your significant other.
- Alternatively, you can serenade your loved one like a true Ecuadorian.
- Maybe throw a large public party like they do in Puerto Rico.
- Or, like the Dominicans, have a karaoke night out.
But, if you want to truly celebrate Valentine’s Day like Latin American people do, you’ll need to take a different approach to how you manage your public displays of affection.
Latin American people are very laid back in this regard, and they often hold hands, give hugs, and even kiss in public.
Are you up for the challenge?
Discover More Valentine’s Day Traditions
In this post, you have learned a little bit about Valentine’s Day history, some unique Latin American traditions, and a few of the romantic gestures and gifts that are common in that region.
Discovering a new culture gets you closer to understanding their language and way of life. Another, equally effective way to improve your understanding of the Spanish language and culture is to have direct access to native Spanish speakers! By signing up for a no-risk, free trial Spanish class at Homeschool Spanish Academy, you can experience any of our K–12 programs or adult-centered classes. Give it a try and see how quickly you reach fluency!
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