How do the Spanish Celebrate Valentine's Day?

There are in fact three romantic days for couples in Spain

Diada de Sant Jordi, Spain's other Valentine's Day
@Francesc_2000 Creative Commons License

Valentine's Day in Spain is much like in many other parts of the world. Nice restaurants are booked up weeks in advance as amorous couples whisper sweet nothings to each other. Cards and flowers, like everywhere else, are also exchanged.

Though Valentine's Day is known in Latin America as "El día del amor y la amistad" - the day of love and friendship - in Spain there is no platonic connotation for the day.

If you're planning a Valentine's Day trip to Spain for your loved one, probably the first thing you'll want to do is book a meal. Not too many restaurants in Spain have online booking, but most of the ones that do are featured here:

How to Say 'I Love You' in Spanish

If you want to impress your loved one on Valentine's Day, remember that there are two main ways of saying 'I love you' in Spanish: 'te quiero' and 'te amo'.

  • 'Te quiero', literally 'I want you', is the most common way of saying 'I love you' in Spanish. Though to English ears it may sound like it has a sexual connotation, it doesn't in Spanish. Children will say 'Te quiero' to their parents. (I will say nothing about Spanish's men's oedipal relationship with their mothers.)
  • 'Te amo' is used purely in the romantic sense.

Both 'Te quiero' and 'te amo' are appropriate on Valentine's Day, but 'te amo' could be considered a little strong if you haven't been with your boyfriend or girlfriend for long.

'Te quiero' is a lot less intense, but even that might be considered too much if you are in a very casual relationship. 'Me molas', which implies you 'like' someone, is a little lighter.

Barcelona's Second Valentine's Day

But the Spanish actually have two days when lovers can exchange gifts, at least in Barcelona.

La Dia de Sant Jordi (St George's Day) is Catalonia's national day (you thought that was England's saint's day? The two regions share him!), celebrated on April 23 each year. Gallant gentlemen in Spain honor St George's romantic gesture of saving a princess from the clutches of an evil dragon by, erm, buying their loved ones a book.

In reality, this tradition probably derives from the fact that William Shakespeare died on this day in 1616 (and Spain's greatest author, Cervantes, a day earlier).

Read more about Festivals in Spain.

Valencia's Romantic Saint's Day

As if that wasn't enough, Valencia has a day dedicated to celebrating romance too - the day of San Dionisio (Sant Dionís) on October 9. The traditional gift for this celebration is fruit-shaped marzipan wrapped in a handkerchief, usually bought by men for their wives and mothers (as if Spain's oedipal complex wasn't implicit enough already.