Now that February is here, many shops and restaurants in Mexico are being decorated with Cupids, ribbons, and pink hearts. Streets vendors make their rounds through the streets hawking heart-shaped balloons and flowers. Valentine’s Day must be just around the corner.
Though the observance of Valentine’s Day was imported from Europe and has no base in Mexican culture, the country has embraced the holiday with enthusiasm. However, instead of being merely an occasion to celebrate romantic love, Mexico’s version of the holiday also includes the recognition of friendship or warm feeling to anyone you care about. Here, February 14th is known as El Día del Amor y la Amistad, which translates to “The Day of Love and Friendship.” In Mexico, as in other places in the world, Valentine’s Day is celebrated by showing appreciation to the people you love. This is often done by giving flowers, especially roses, candies and balloons to their romantic partners. Many Mexicans will also present small gifts or greeting cards to close friends and family members. Valentine’s Day is the perfect opportunity to show appreciation for the love and friendship that you have in your life.
A common way for a young lover to try to win favor with his lady love on Valentine’s Day Eve is to hire a group of Mariachis, a traditional 3-piece band. The musicians accompany the young gallant as he serenades his beloved from below her window. This custom, which is not necessarily limited to Valentine’s Day, has been in practice in Mexico since colonial times. Although it is not specifically related to Valentine’s Day, there is one quaint, romantic tradition that still exists in certain parts of Mexico. “El paseo” is a traditional Sunday evening pastime in many small villages. The custom is for the young people of the community to get together and parade in circles around the town plaza under the watchful eyes of extended family members. Boys stroll in one direction and girls go the opposite way. When a young man spots a girl who piques his interest, he casually gives her a flower as they pass each other. If, on the next round, the young lady is still carrying the flower, it means she is not indifferent to her young admirer. Tradition dictates that, at this point, he can leave hisfriends to walk with his heart’s desire. This is likely the origin of the Spanish expression “andar con” <somebody> for the English term “to date”.
Telling someone “I love you.” in Spanish can be a little tricky as there are two different ways to say it. Use “te quiero” to express love to close friends and family members. However, if the feeling you wish to convey is a deeper, romantic one, use “te amo”.
¡Feliz día del amor y la amistad!