¡Llegó febrero, el mes del amor y la amistad! (February has come, the month of love and friendship!)… in some countries, at least! ¡Así es, querubines (That’s right, cherubs), not all countries celebrate Valentine’s Day el 14 de febrero (on February 14)… and in some countries, like Mexico, people not only celebrate romantic love, but also their affection to friends and family. Who would’ve thought?!
Yo soy Mariana, Spring Spanish teacher, and in today’s lesson I’ll share even more juicy and romantic details about Valentine’s Day en México y otros países de habla hispana (in Mexico and other Spanish-speaking countries). More importantly, however, I’ll teach how to talk about this day in Spanish. This is my Valentine’s Day gift for you!
A bit of history
For some people, Valentine’s Day is nothing but a symptom of capitalism; for many others, es sinónimo de alegría (it’s a synonym of joy)! But have you ever wondered where this tradition comes from?
Well, investigué un poco (I did a bit of research) and I discovered that the origin of Valentine’s Day is actually tragic…
Legend has it that el 14 de febrero del año 270 (on February 14, 270 —so, ages ago), un sacerdote romano (a Roman priest) called Valentine was sentenced to death by emperor Claudius the Second.
¿Qué crimen cometió este sacerdote? (What crime did this priest commit?) Well, casaba parejas jóvenes en secreto (he secretly married young couples)… against the emperor’s orders.
You see, Claudius the Second thought young men would be better soldiers than husbands—he was probably right—and so he banned marriages, but priest Valentine rebelled against this and became the protector of los enamorados (those in love).
So, because of these historic events, Valentine’s Day is also known as Día del amor (Day of Love), Día de los enamorados (In Love Ones Day), and Día de los novios (Couples’ Day).
Como es el Día del Amor (Since it’s the Day of Love), people give each other regalos (gifts) as a token of their affection.
In Mexico, los regalos más comunes en el Día de San Valentín (The most common gifts on Valentine’s Day) are:
- chocolates (chocolates)
- dulces (candies or sweets)
- bombones (marshmallows)
- globos (balloons)
- tarjetas (gift cards)
- flores (flowers)
Algunas personas (Some people) are a lot more creative or original. Last year, for example, mi novio me regaló una taza (my boyfriend gave me a mug), which I think is very cute, and years ago, me regaló un oso de peluche (he gave me a teddy bear). Actually, los peluches (stuffed animals) are also a popular gift on Valentine’s Day.
Además de regalarse cosas (In addition to giving each other gifts), here are some other things couples and friends to do celebrate:
- Muchas parejas van a un restaurante (Many couples go to a restaurant) —to have lunch or dinner
- Algunos amigos van al cine (Some friends go to the movie theater)
- Algunas parejas van a pasear. (Some couples stroll) —along a park or a mall
- Los hombres suelen llevar serenata (Guys usually serenade) —generally with Mariachi, a typically Mexican ensemble
- Algunas personas van a un hotel (Some people go to a hotel)… we don’t need to go into the details, but this is obviously something only couples do… hopefully…!
Now, tell me, what do people in your country do to celebrate Valentine’s Day? You can start your comment with “en mi país” (in my country), which is a perfect example of a chunk because it never changes, you know it’s correct, and you can just learn it by heart as a whole and use it yourself, so that you sound like a native speaker!
So, say something like “En mi país, vamos al cine” (In my country, we go to the movie theater) or “En mi país, regalamos rosas” (In my country, we gift roses). See how easy that is?!
At Spring Spanish we help you reach fluency in Spanish entirely through chunks. If you want to learn more about this innovative method, designed by linguists, follow this link to see a full demonstration!
Now, as a token of my affection to you, lovely Spanish learners, I’ll teach you the Spanish chunks that will come in handy to impress your Spanish-speaking friends or your significant other on Valentine’s Day!
Talking about Valentine’s Day
If you want to ask a friend what they’re doing on Valentine’s Day, you may say:
- ¿Qué vas a hacer en San Valentín? (What are you doing on Valentine’s Day?)
- ¿Cómo vas a celebrar San Valentín? (How will you celebrate Valentine’s Day?)
The answer to these questions may be:
- Voy a llevar serenata. (I’ll serenade —my significant other.)
- Voy a llevarla al cine. (I’m taking her / my girlfriend to the movie theater.)
- Vamos a ir de viaje. (We’re going on a trip.)
- Hice reservación en nuestro restaurante favorito. (I made a reservation at our favorite restaurant.)
- Voy a dar anillo. (Literally, I’m going to give a ring.) —This is the expression used to say that someone is going to propose. Some people think Valentine’s Day is the right day to do that. Very brave of them!
- Se la voy a cantar. (Literally, I’ll sing it to her/him.) —This is an expression used in Mexico to say that you intend to declare your love to someone.
Now, if you want to talk about the gifts or tokens, you may ask:
- ¿Qué le vas a regalar en San Valentín? (What will you give them on Valentine’s Day?)
- ¿Qué te regalaron en San Valentín? (What did you get on Valentine’s Day?)
If someone asks you either of these questions, you may respond:
- Le compré un peluche. (I bought them a stuffed animal.)
- Le voy a dar chocolates. (I’ll give them a box of chocolates.)
- Le mandé flores. (I sent them flowers.)
- Me dijo “te amo”. (They said “I love you”.)
Fun Facts about Valentine’s Day in Latin America
Now, si no andas con nadie en este momento (if you are not dating anyone at the moment), you’ll be happy to know que el Día del Amor (that Valentine’s Day) is not celebrated on February 14 in all countries.
Andar con (literally, to stroll with) is the expression native speakers use, especially in Mexico, to talk about dating… The chunks that are often used are:
- No ando con nadie (I’m not dating anyone at the moment)
- Ando con Pablo (I’m dating Pablo)
- ¿A poco ella anda con él? (Is she really dating him?!), which is very common when gossipping
There’s actually a story behind these chunks!
In some Mexican villages, people gather at the main square. There, men walk on one side and women on the opposite side. If a guy is interested in a specific girl, he gives her una flor (a flower) and if she keeps the flower for a while, pueden ir a caminar juntos (they may go for a walk together). Legend has it that this is why people say andar con alguien (to date someone) because the verb andar means to walk.
So, if you’re not really interested in celebrating Valentine’s Day in February, you might want to travel to:
- Brazil in June
- Colombia or Bolivia in September
- Uruguay in October
…that’s when people celebrate love and friendship in those countries. Interesting, huh?
And if you want to talk about the flirting process, you may say:
- Me tira el perro. (Literally, they’re throwing a dog at me.)
- Me tira el calzón. (Literally, they’re throwing their underpants at me.) —Disgusting, I know!
These two phrases are used to talk about flirtatious behavior. So, if you happen to have a crush on a Mexican woman porque te tiró el perro (because she hit on you), and if you are thinking about dating her, check out my article to discover the secrets to a successful relationship with a Mexican woman.