Valentine’s Day traditions in Spain

Learn more about Valentine's Day in Spain
Learn more about Valentine's Day in Spain / Alex Martinez on Unsplash
11 February 2021, Tom Beck

Love is in the air as 14th February 2021, Valentine’s Day, is almost upon us once again. Although due to the coronavirus pandemic there might not be any romantic trips on the cards this year, it's time to get your flowers and chocolates and get ready to celebrate Valentine's Day Spanish-style!

St. Valentine’s Day, known in Spanish as El Día de San Valentín, is celebrated in Spain in a similar way to the rest of the world – couples and lovers go out for dinner, buy each other fancy gifts and just generally celebrate being in love. In Verona, Italy, the home of Romeo & Juliet, millions of letters arrive addressed to Juliet asking for love advice, while in Portugal it is still typical to wear beautifully embroidered scarves for the day.

Of all the traditional holidays in Spain, San Valentín is by no means the most important, but there are some curious and interesting facts about Valentine’s Day in Spain that you should know about.

Why is it called Valentine’s Day?

Valentine’s Day is named after Saint Valentine, an Italian born in the Umbria region in 174 BC, who was canonised by the Catholic Church. Spaniards have a great appreciation for Catholic holidays thanks to their history as a traditionally Catholic country, and every single day in the calendar is named after a saint, sometimes even two. This particular saint, who symbolises health, kindness and love (Valentine literally means “healthy”) is usually represented with a palm leaf and a sword, symbols of matrimonial union.

One legend has it that Bishop Valentine of Rome married soldiers in defiance of a papal decree saying soldiers could not marry, and he was executed on February 14th. However, there are many conflicting versions of the story of the life and death of Saint Valentine, many of which haven’t been proven. As a result, the Catholic Church actually stopped celebrating this holiday in 1969, but all around the world, it is still a very important date.

More than one "Day of Love" in Spain

While we’re used to celebrating our romantic love in mid-February, there are some places in Spain where they have a different date for the ‘Día de los Enamorados’, translated as "Lovers’ Day". In Barcelona, the patron saint of the city is St. George, and on 23rd April each year, the Catalonian people take advantage of this festival to celebrate love and books. Around the time of the Sant Jordi festival in Barcelona, the is traditionally filled with book fairs and people give books and roses as tokens of their affection.

In Valencia, the celebration of love isn’t celebrated until 9th October during the feast of St Dionysius, or San Dionisio, when people give one another presentswhich consist of marzipan wrapped in handkerchiefs. Tradition has it that the beloved who receives the gift must hold onto the handkerchief forever as proof of how long they have been with their partner.

You can also celebrate not being in love

As in many other places in the world, Single’s Day is gaining ground in Spain. This is a holiday to recognise the joys and pride of being single and not in a relationship. While the Chinese typically celebrate this holiday on 11th November (11/11 because 1 is said to be the loneliest number), in other parts of the world, including Spain where it is known as El Día de los Solteros, Single’s Day, is celebrated the day before Valentine’s Day, on 13th February.

LGBTQ+ friendly

Spain regularly tops the list of the best countries in Europe to be gay, with a strong culture of gay pride and lots of specialist events. Valentine’s Day is no longer only for straight love, and Spain proves it with several LGBT nights traditionally happening in February. In a normal year (not in the middle of a global pandemic), there are an increasing number of club nights to celebrate these dates in Madrid. 

Valentine’s Day food in Spain

The best seafood in Spain comes from Galicia, like these romantic oysters / Pixabay
The best seafood in Spain comes from Galicia, like these romantic oysters / Pixabay

One of the things many people do on Valentine’s Day is give chocolates, cakes and other heart-shaped or pink food to show their love. In Spain this tradition is the same, but unfortunately there is no specific food that Spanish people only eat at this time of the year. Nonetheless, if you want to make a romantic meal for your loved one, Spain is the best place to do it thanks to its fresh, high-quality ingredients. You can impress your other half by cooking some traditional Spanish food such as Galician oysters, a noted aphrodisiac, or a light and typically Spanish sweet dessert like flan de huevo, to make sure that Valentine's Day 2021 is one to be remembered despite the circumstances. 

And to finish off, you need to be able to greet people on this special day; so how do you say Happy Valentine's Day in Spanish? "¡Feliz Día de San Valentín!"

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