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Valentine's Day in Spanish: Vocabulary and Traditions

In preparation for El Día de San Valentín (Valentine's Day), let's listen to several pertinent clips from the Yabla Spanish video library... and learn some vocabulary in the process!

 

Aunque no crean, existe el amor a primera vista

Believe it or not, love at first sight does exist.

Caption 56, El reencuentro Las amigas hablan del trabajo y el amor.

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Cupido vuelve a apuntar con su flecha

Cupid aims with his arrow again

Caption 5, Tito El Bambino Llueve el amor

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Mande a pedir un ramo de doce rosas rojas

Order a bouquet of twelve red roses,

Caption 45, Programación de oficina El dictado del jefe

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Chocolate Perfección: el chocolate para enamorados.

"Chocolate Perfección": the chocolate for lovers.

Captions 43-44, Extr@: Extra en español Ep. 5: Ha nacido una estrella - Part 2

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Valentine's Day in North America 

The captions above include some common themes and traditions of Valentine's Day in North America, which is meant to  festejar el amor  (celebrate love) for romantic partners and family members, and, increasingly, to show appreciation for friends. Typical ways of doing so include  intercambiar regalos (exchanging gifts) and tarjetas de San Valentín  (valentines), mandar flores (sending flowers), most typically rosas rojas (red roses), giving cajas de chocolate en forma de corazón (heart-shaped boxes of chocolate), and planning special citas (dates), such as salir a cenar (going out to dinner). Valentine's Day in North America is celebrated on el catorce de febrero (February fourteenth).

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Valentine's Day in the Spanish-Speaking World

Valentine's Day is celebrated in a similar fashion on the same day in many Spanish speaking countries, with varying degrees of popularity. In addition to El Día de San Valentín, many countries refer to this holiday as El Día del Amor y la Amistad (Love and Friendship Day) or El Día de los Enamorados (Lovers' Day), while some use these terms interchangeably. And Guatemala has a unique name: El Día del Cariño (Affection Day).

 

Many Valentine's costumbres (traditions) in the Spanish-speaking world overlap with North American ones:

 

La floristería. ¿Sí? Es una tienda donde la gente compra flores, plantas, ¿sí? Por ejemplo, para cumpleaños, o para... en... en primavera, o para el Día de los Enamorados, por ejemplo.

The florist. Right? It's a store where people buy flowers, plants, right? For example, for birthdays, or for... in... in spring, or for Valentine's Day, for example.

Captions 3-6, Curso de español Tiendas y edificios públicos en la ciudad

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However, there are some differences. In Chile, las orquídeas (orchids) are the flowers of love rather than roses. And some countries, like the Dominican Republic, have the tradition of a game called Amigo secreto (Secret Friend) or Angelito (Little Angel) among friends or colleagues, which is similar to the idea of Secret Santa. 

 

Valentine's Day Alternatives

Some countries celebrate their Valentine's Day on a different date, while others commemorate both February 14th and additional love and friendship holidays. 

 

Colombia's El Día del Amor y la Amistad falls on the third Saturday in September, while Argentina's La Semana de la Dulzura (Sweetness Week), where amigos (friends) and amantes (lovers) exchange chocolate and other dulces (sweets), lasts from June 1st through 7th. Argentinians also recognize El Día del Amigo (Friend Day) on July 20th, whereas Mexico has its El Día Internacional de la Amistad (International Friendship Day) on August 30th. Additional romantic holidays include El Día del Estudiante, de la Juventud, de la Primavera, y del Amor (The Day of the Student, Youth, Spring, and Love) on September 21st in Bolivia and El Día de San Jorge (Saint George's Day) in Catalonia on April 23rd, where red roses are traditionally gifted to women and books to men. On El Día de San Dionisio (Saint Dionysius Day) in Valencia on October 9th, the gift of choice is the Spanish sweet mazapán (marzipan) wrapped in a pañuelo (handkerchief).

 

Valentine's Day Verbs

Now that we know about various international Valentine's-like festivities, let's learn some romantic Spanish vocabulary, starting with some verbs:

 

abrazar: to hug/embrace

acurrucar: to cuddle 

adorar: to adore/love

amar: to love

besar: to kiss 

coquetear: to flirt 

casarse: to marry/get married

enamorarse: to fall in love

encantar: to [cause] love

gustar: to [cause someone to] like 

querer: to like/love

 

Related to these words are, of course, essential Valentine's Day nouns like  el beso (the kiss) and el abrazo (the hug) and adjectives like enamorado/a (in love). Let's hear a few of these words in action:

 

Me quiero casar con ella. Estoy enamorado, ¿eh?

I want to marry her. I'm in love, huh?

Caption 59, Muñeca Brava 2 Venganza - Part 9

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¿Y no te alcanza el tiempo para coquetear con cierto chico... rubio, guapo, encantador?

And don't you have enough time to flirt with a certain guy... blond, handsome, charming?

Captions 116-117, NPS No puede ser 1 - El concurso - Part 10

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Siento que cada día te quiero más

I feel that each day I love you more

Caption 27, Alberto Barros Mano a mano

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Since the subtle differences between the different "love" verbs can seem a bit confusing for English speakers, we recommend our lessons on three different ways to express love in Spanish and Amar y Querer. And, since the way that verbs like gustar and encantar  work can feel a bit counterintuitive, we recommend this two-part lesson on Querer vs. "To Like": A Difference in Perception.

 

Terms of Endearment

Let's conclude today's lesson with some ways to refer affectionately to your romantic partner, although you might additionally hear many of them used among friends. While we will provide their literal translations below, many of them can be used similarly to the way that the terms "honey," "dear" or "sweetie" are used in English. 

 

Amor: love

Cariño: affection

Corazón: heart

Mi cielo: my sky

Mi rey/reina: my king/queen

Mi vida: my life

Querido/querida: dear

 

Let's hear a few of these in action:

 

y te mando un beso, corazón.

and I send you a kiss, sweetheart.

Caption 11, Confidencial: El rey de la estafa Capítulo 3 - Part 7

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Dame un beso. -¿De verdad, mi cielo?

Give me a kiss. -Really, my dear?

Caption 64, Confidencial: Asesino al Volante Capítulo 1 - Part 3

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¡Mi reina! Mi amor, cómo te extrañé. -Hola, yo también.

My queen! My love, how I missed you. -Hello, me too.

Captions 1-2, Yago 6 Mentiras - Part 2

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And remember that while gordo/a literally means "fat" or "fatty," it is also used as a term of endearment in some Latin American countries (although we definitely don't recommend employing it's English equivalent!).

 

Ay, gordo, muchísimas gracias por haber estado aquí. -A ti por invitarme.

Oh, honey, thank you very much for having been here. -To you for inviting me.

Caption 13, Club 10 Capítulo 2 - Part 4

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We hope that this lesson rife with Valentine's Day vocabulary has been useful to you, and  ¡Feliz Día de San Valentín (Happy Valentine's Day)! And don't forget to leave us your suggestions and comments

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A Note on Día de Muertos

In recent years, the Mexican celebration known as Día de muertos (Day of the Dead) has gained considerable popularity. The recent release of Coco, a Pixar animated movie inspired by this tradition that has been heavily marketed for Thanksgiving 2017, will likely consolidate the place of this holiday in the mainstream for many years to come.
 

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Día de muertos is mostly aimed at honoring and remembering friends and family members who have died. In Mexico, Día de Muertos  — largely celebrated Nov. 1 and 2 — is a syncretic holiday that goes back thousands of years to some pre-Hispanic civilizations including the Olmec, Zapotec, and Maya, but that is also intertwined with Catholic traditions brought in during the Conquest. For this reason, the celebration has both religious and cultural tones, and many regional variants only inside the Mexican territory! For example, people from the state of Michoacan call this celebration Animecha Kejtzitaka (the night of the dead) following indigenous Purepecha traditions, while Mayan people in Yucatan call it Janal Pixan (the food of the dead), a communal festival that lasts several days.
 
Don Salo, an artisan from Yucatan, talks to us about Janal Pixan:

 

Aquí se le llama Janal Pixan.

Here it's called Janal Pixan.

En maya es "comida para difuntos".

In Mayan means "food for the deceased."

Captions 67-68, Yabla en Yucatán - Don Salo

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He even mentions Xibalba, the name of the underworld in K'iche' Maya mythology:
 

...y sucumbía en esta vida, para pasar al Xibalba,

...and succumbed in this life, to go on to the Xibalba,

al inframundo.

to the underworld.

Caption 28, Yabla en Yucatán - Don Salo

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Nowadays the Día de muertos celebration in Mexico is still deeply rooted in religious practices, but it has also evolved into an important secular holiday, with distinctive elements and practices that are shared across the whole country and some US southern regions at least since the year 1900. One of these elements is el altar de muertos or la ofrenda de muertos (the offering to the dead), which is set up to honor the memory of a deceased person. Some of the most common elements that you will find in a Mexican altar de muertos are: papel picado (decorative pierced paper), marigolds, sugar skulls, candles, pan de muerto (bread of the dead), salt, water, and traditional food.

Our friend Meli shares a very contemporary take on Día de muertos while showing us how to make papel picado:
 

El papel picado es un producto artesanal, ornamental de papel.

"Papel picado" is a handmade, decorative paper product.

Caption 52, Manos a la obra - Papel picado para Día de muertos

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Meli is also aware that different people in Mexico have different Día de muertos traditions, an important thing a language learner interested in this cultural celebration must remember:

 

En algunos lugares de México,

In some places in Mexico,

las personas pasan parte de la noche en el panteón.

people spend part of the night at the cemetery.

Captions 60-61, Manos a la obra - Papel picado para Día de muertos

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By the way, the words panteón (from Greek pantheon), cementerio, and camposanto all mean "cemetery" and they are all very common in Mexico. Many other words like tumba (tomb), sepultura (entombment), enterramiento (burial), etc. are also used to talk about the death... and joke about it. One such expression is levantar al muerto (to raise the dead) which literally means "to resuscitate" but it's also commonly used to refer to hangovers:
 

Unos buenos chilaquiles

Some good chilaquiles

levantan al muerto más muerto.

raise the deadest of the dead (cure the worst hangover).

Caption 23, Tatiana y su cocina - Chilaquiles

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Keep in mind that, even though the Mexican Día de muertos is the most well-known rendition of this holiday, this celebration is also important in many other Spanish speaking countries, each with its own particularities. Our friend Julia, for example, tells us that in Ecuador people customarily drink colada de mora (blackberry smoothie) for Día de muertos:
 

...y que en Ecuador y en otros países se la toma

...and that in Ecuador and in other countries is consumed

el dos de noviembre de todos los años, el Día de los Muertos.

on November second every year, the Day of the Dead.

Captions 52-53, Otavalo - Conozcamos el Mundo de las Frutas con Julia

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Have you witnessed a Día de muertos celebration while traveling in a Spanish speaking country? Share your stories with us on twitter @yabla and send your topic suggestions to newsletter@yabla.com.

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