Viva El Amor! Celebrating Valentine’s Day, Latin American Style
The special day to celebrate with couples and friends is ‘Valentine’s Day.’ But traditions and dates vary from country to country.
Despite Valentine’s Day’s religious origin, the holiday has become part of the secular calendar and one of the world’s most popular celebrations.
On this day, people honor their loved ones and friends, giving one another gifts, and making kind and loving gestures. In the United States, people focus on their partners; in other countries, they include their friends.
The holiday’s origin comes from a Catholic saint of the 3rd century, Saint Valentine, a martyr whom the Romans killed for protecting Christian beliefs. Although the Catholic Church no longer recognizes the day, it allows its celebration, provided it does not interrupt Masses or other saints’ commemorations.
In life, Saint Valentine used to marry Christian couples. He became associated with love. February 14, the day of his martyrdom, has remained the ideal moment for people to communicate their love through symbolic exchanges.
Latin America is full of people who take advantage of this date to make large shows of love. However, many think it’s unnecessary. Any day of the year is appropriate to show love and friendship, and focusing only on one day can be an empty gesture or materialistic.
“I celebrate that my friends have found people to celebrate the day. It is not that I do not believe in love, but rather that the day has become something so materialistic it is uncomfortable,” said Jair Panamá, an event organizer in Veracruz, Mexico. “Love can and must be celebrated every day, just like friendship. But today, this is an industry.”
The Day of Love and Friendship
The Mexican approach to Valentine’s Day is described as a go-big-or-go home attitude. All shops have massive sales and offer candies, chocolates, stuffed animals, balloons, wines, and even lingerie and condoms! Restaurants and hotels also create campaigns so customers can enjoy a magnificent afternoon with their loved ones.
Curiously, not all Latin American countries celebrate Valentine’s Day. At least, not during February. Colombians celebrate the Day of Love and Friendship every September — the same day Argentines celebrate the Día de Los Novios.
Argentinians celebrate Sweetness Week, which starts on Valentine’s Day, February 14, and lasts for an entire week. They only gift each other a small symbolic detail, such as flowers or chocolates. However, they also have a day to celebrate friendship, on July 20, which has become popular in recent years, when they exchange gifts, sweets or kisses.
Bolivia celebrates its Day of Love and Friendship on Sept. 21, the same day as spring arrives. For them, February 14 is a more somber holiday, since it represents the day when the War of the Pacific began, with the invasion of Antofagasta.
Another country that does not celebrate February 14 is Brazil. However, many more, Venezuela, Uruguay, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Peru, Paraguay, Panama, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Cuba and Costa Rica, do celebrate Valentine’s Day.
“It is very nice to see young kids in shopping centers, carrying stuffed animals, flowers and balloons,” said Lenis Rodríguez, an engineer from the Central University of Venezuela. “Personally, I appreciate all of my husband’s gifts, as he does mine. For me, it is a nice, beautiful day.”
These nations celebrate love in many ways. It does not matter how much money people spend, as long as they can demonstrate their sincere feelings.
(Translated and edited by Mario Vázquez, edited by Fern Siegel.)