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Verbena de San Juan: Celebrating St. John’s Eve in Spain

What are your favorite things about summer? For me, I think it’s the food and the sunshine! I could do without all the bugs, though…

In Spain, two of the highlights of summer are the Midsummer festival and the St. John’s Eve holiday. Spain is alight during this time, celebrating the longest day (Midsummer) and shortest night (St. John’s Eve) of the year.

In this article, you’ll learn about traditions for St. John’s Eve and Midsummer in Spanish culture. There’s so much going on that it would be difficult to cover everything, but we’ll do our best. 😉

Let’s get started!

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1. An Overview of St. John’s Eve & Spanish Midsummer

St. John’s Eve is a popular holiday in the Spanish-speaking world, particularly near the Mediterranean coast and in the North. It marks la noche más corta (the shortest night) of the year. This holiday has pagan Celtic origins, though it has been Christianized over time to commemorate the birth of John the Baptist. But don’t be fooled—the Spanish have kept St. John’s Eve rooted in its “pagan” origins, in several ways. You could say that the holiday is a blend of old beliefs and traditions with newer, modern ones.

For example, this holiday is strongly associated with “St. John’s Eve voodoo,” which refers to traditions and celebrations that focus on magic or other supernatural elements. We’ll go more into detail on this soon!

A couple of days prior to St. John’s Eve, the Spanish also celebrate the Midsummer Festival. Spain is alive with festivities on this day, which celebrates the longest day of the year and takes full advantage of great summertime weather.

2. When is St. John’s Eve?

A Full Moon Shining Over Hills at Night

Each year, St. John’s Eve is celebrated on June 23, a couple of days after Midsummer.

3. Traditions for St. John’s Eve in Spain

A Bonfire

The most popular traditions and celebrations differ from region to region.

Near the coast, people get together on a playa (beach) and have a massive fiesta (party). This always involves hogueras (bonfires), which anyone can set up and light—as you can imagine, the beaches are filled with these fires! Many activities are associated with these bonfires, such as throwing a list of one’s wishes into it, jumping over the flames, and walking on hot coals. Some people like to set off petardos (firecrackers) in celebration, too.

Those who live more inland, far away from the beaches, have their own set of traditions. In Lanjarón, people partake in what’s called the Fiesta del Agua y del Jamón: people splash each other with water, and there are ham tastings. In Asturias and Madrid, people don’t let their distance from the coast keep them from lighting bonfires!

In Soria, there’s a three-day celebration during which people play folk music, put on traditional dress, and watch a parade. The celebrations here are considered by many to be the most spectacular.

On Saint John’s Eve, Spain is sure to be filled not only with the blaze of bonfires and lots of music, but also with the delicious aromas of food cooking. This evening is the perfect occasion for Spaniards to enjoy a cena (dinner) of barbecue and smoked meats, and to drink alcoholic beverages and other thirst-quenching refreshments.

These festivities can go on long into the night.

4. St. John’s Eve Voodoo

As mentioned earlier, St. John’s Eve is rooted in paganism. Even today, there are many popular beliefs about this night with specific traditions associated with them.

For example, some people believe that it’s good luck to enter the sea naked and backward while looking at the moon. Another belief is that if a single man or woman looks outside of their window around midnight, just as June 24 is beginning, they’ll see the love of their life passing by. Another is that if someone wakes up early on Midsummer Day, they won’t be sleepy for the rest of the year.

In Galicia, they drink something called queimada. This is a “magic” potion made with brandy, fruit, and sugar. A spell is cast on it while it’s being made, and it’s lit on fire before being served. Queimada is thought to get rid of evil spirits and other supernatural forces.

5. Must-Know Vocabulary for St. John’s Eve

A Beach with a Palm Tree

Ready to review some of the vocabulary words from this article? Here’s a quick list!

  • Cena — “Dinner” [n. fem]
  • Beber — “Drink” [v.]
  • Playa — “Beach” [n. fem]
  • Verbena de San Juan — “St. John’s Eve” [n. fem]
  • Noche — “Night” [n. fem]
  • Fiesta — “Party” [n. fem]
  • Multitud — “Crowd” [n. fem]
  • Petardo — “Firecracker” [n.]
  • Coca — “Coca” [n. fem]
  • Hoguera — “Bonfire” [n. fem]
  • La noche más corta — “Shortest night”

If you want to hear the pronunciation of each word and phrase, visit’s St. John’s Eve vocabulary list with audio.

Final Thoughts

In Spain, Midsummer and St. John’s Eve are certainly festive occasions that you won’t want to miss out on! If you enjoy large gatherings, time at the beach, and amazing food, we do encourage you to plan ahead for a trip to Spain to see these awesome celebrations.

Do you celebrate Midsummer or St. John’s Eve in your country? If so, what do celebrations look like there? We look forward to hearing from you in the comments!

If you want to learn more about the culture of Spanish-speaking countries and the Spanish language, has several free resources for you, straight from our blog:

This only scratches the surface of everything has to offer the aspiring Spanish-learner. To make the most of your study time, create your free lifetime account with us today, or upgrade to our Premium or Premium PLUS plans for access to exclusive content and lessons.

It’s our goal to make your learning experience as painless and exciting as possible, so we do hope to see you around! 😉

Stay safe out there, and happy learning.

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Guide to Understanding Body Gestures in Spanish


Every culture has its own body gestures and language, but sometimes we don’t even realize we do them until someone points it out.

People say you’re not completely fluent in a language until you master idioms, sayings, and gestures, even if they’re not necessary to speak well. We agree that knowing body gestures to improve your Spanish is essential… But there’s a problem: body gestures in Spanish lessons are so hard to come by!

When it comes to some gestures, there’s nothing to worry about, since they’re understood worldwide, such as waving to say hello or goodbye. But then there are others that might leave you a little bit confused. Do you feel like you don’t understand body language in Spanish, or gestures in European countries in general? You’re in the right place, then, because this is where we’re going to help you understand gestures in Spain.

Here’s an example:

What would you think it meant if someone were to hold their palm up as if they were doing karate, and then move it repeatedly toward their stomach while they’re laughing? There’s no need to be scared. They’re not going to cut you in half or anything like that. It just means they thought something was really funny! Would you have guessed that? Maybe, or maybe not.

There are a few more Spanish body language and gestures like this, and some are easier to understand than others. Some of these will generally be accompanied by words, but some won’t. If this sounds a bit confusing, don’t worry. Lucky for you, we’re here to make that process easier. We’ve created this guide so that you can understand these gestures; soon enough, you’ll notice you’re doing them yourself without even thinking about it! Start with a bonus, and download your FREE cheat sheet – How to Improve Your Spanish Skills! (Logged-In Member Only)

Table of Contents

  1. Three Gestures for Greeting
  2. Seven Negative Gestures
  3. Three Positive Gestures
  4. Six Neutral Gestures
  5. How Can Help You Learn Spanish

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1. Three Gestures for Greeting

Nonverbal communication in Spanish culture starts with greetings! Here are some of the most common Spain gestures and greetings.

1- Hola and Adiós

Girl Saying Hello

Meaning: “Hello” and “Goodbye”

How to do: This type of greeting is pretty common. You just need to put one of your hands up, not completely open, and shake from left to right and back at least a couple of times.

When or where to use: You can use this gesture to say hello to someone you see, or goodbye when they’re leaving. If you’re really happy to see them, you can do this movement more energetically and repeatedly.

Take a look at our previous article on How to Say “Hello” in Spanish!

2- Dos besos

Woman and Man Kissing Each Other on the Cheeks

Meaning: “Two kisses on the cheeks”

How to do: Kiss a person twice, once on each cheek. But keep in mind that you won’t actually be kissing them, but only pretending to. You must always start by leaning to your left side, which is their right cheek. Notice that in other countries, such as France, they start on the other side.

When or where to use: This greeting is typically used between a woman and a man, or a woman and another woman—or between kids. If you’re two men, but you’re from the same family, you can also give him dos besos.

3- Dar la mano


Meaning: “Handshake”

How to do: Shaking hands in Spain is easy: it’s just a normal handshake. We’re sure you’ve seen this one before, but just in case, all you need to do is hold and shake someone’s hand while facing them.

When or where to use: Shake hands if the greeting is for professional reasons or between two men. It can also mean you’ve just made an agreement.

2. Seven Negative Gestures

Spanish hand gestures

As in any country, there are negative body gestures in Spain that you should know and be aware of. These include offensive hand gestures in Spain and Spanish swear gestures! Learn the most common ones here.

1- Así, así, or Regular

Meaning: “So, so”

How to do: Hold your hand open with your palm facing down in front of you, and softly shake it left to right two or three times.

When or where to use: Use this gesture when someone asks you how you’re doing and you’re not doing that great.

2- Te voy a dar

Meaning: “I’m going to get you.”

How to do: Hold your palm up diagonally near your face as if you were going to do some karate, and move your wrist from left to right several times.

When or where to use: If you ask any Spaniard about this gesture, there’s a clear image that they would immediately think of, which is the image of an angry mother coming after you when you’ve been naughty.

3- Dedo medio

Middle Finger Sign

Meaning: “Middle finger”

How to do: You know this one! It’s one of the most offensive finger gestures in Spain. Put your middle finger up, facing whoever you want to show it to.

When or where to use: You can use this gesture in different situations, such as when you’re driving and a crazy driver does something dangerous near you. Basically, use it when you’re mad at someone.

4- Caradura

Meaning: “Shameless”

How to do: Open your palm and tap your cheek. The literal meaning of caradura is, in fact, “hard face,” so when you’re doing this, you’re showing how hard that person’s face is.

When or where to use: We’ll give you a very common example. Do any of your friends always manage to avoid paying when you all go out, while everyone else is paying for their part? Surely, we all have one of those. Well, that’s a clear example of a caradura.

5- Estoy harto or Estoy hasta aquí

Meaning: “I’m fed up.”

How to do: Do you know that typical salute you see in movies that soldiers do when they greet a superior? You know, when they move their hand up to their forehead. Well, this gesture obviously has a very different meaning, and it’s not exactly the same, but it’s actually done in a similar way.

You need to hold your hand in the same way, but the position will be horizontal instead of vertical. Estoy hasta aquí literally means “I’m until here.” Because you’re touching your head, it refers to the fact that you’re fed up from toes to head.

When or where to use: The name says it all: you’ll use this gesture when you’re fed up.

6- Está loco/loca

Meaning: “He/she is crazy”

How to do: With your index finger, tap your head on one side a few times, frowning a little.

When or where to use: Once again, it’s all in the name. When you want to point out to someone that they (or someone else) is crazy, you can use this gesture.

7- Dinero

Handing Someone Money

Meaning: “Money”

How to do: This one is quite international. Rub your thumb against your index finger and middle finger.

When or where to use: Use this gesture when talking about money. You can use it to mean that you need money, or that something you’ve seen is very expensive.

3. Three Positive Gestures

1- Partirse de risa

Meaning: “Laugh really hard”

How to do: As we mentioned before, what you need to do is hold your palm up as if you were going to do some karate movement, and then move it at least a couple of times directly to your stomach. Because it refers to something being funny, you’ll normally laugh while you do it.

When or where to use: This gesture can be used after someone tells a joke, or after you or someone else said something funny or silly. You can use it if you actually think what they said was funny, but you can also use it sarcastically, accompanied by a sarcastic “Ha, ha.”

If you want to laugh while you practice your Spanish listening skills, take a look at this list of Spanish comedians.

2- ¡Madre mía!

Meaning: “Oh my God!”

How to do: Hold one of your hands limp, or both hands for emphasis, and waggle it up and down for a few seconds.

When or where to use: The most common use is when you’re about to tell someone some new gossip or something very exciting, as well as after someone says something like this to you.

3- Tirón de orejas

Meaning: “Ear pull”

How to do: With your index finger and thumb, pull a kid’s ear lobule as many times as years he or she is turning that day, while counting them. The last pull is always a bit harder than the others.

When or where to use: As you might have guessed from the previous explanation, you’ll use this gesture when it’s a kid’s birthday.

If you’re feeling confident in Spanish, you might enjoy reading this article on why we pull ears on people’s birthday.

4. Six Neutral Gestures

1- Comer

Meaning: “To eat”

How to do: Hopefully this one will be easy to understand. Do you know that typical Italian hand gesture? Yes, you know, the one you do when you pretend to speak Italian. Well, it’s the same hand gesture, but you direct it to your mouth. And no, you don’t need to do your “Italian face” either.

When or where to use: We use this gesture when we want to ask someone if they would like to eat.

To learn some more about food in Spanish, check out our Top 10 Foods That Will Make You Live Longer and our Top 10 Foods That Will Kill You Faster articles.

2- Mucha gente

Meaning: “Crowded room”

How to do: Hold your palm up, keeping your fingers straight and facing up, and then open and close them a few times.

When or where to use: You can use this gesture, for example, when someone asks you how something you did went, such as a trip or a night out, and you want to describe that there were a lot of people.

3- Pedir la cuenta

Meaning: “Asking for the bill”

How to do: We find this gesture pretty interesting. You have to extend one of your hands with your palm facing up, and then extend your other hand, usually the one you use for writing, and pretend to scribble something on your other hand.

When or where to use: This is the gesture you use to ask for the bill in a restaurant without having to use any words, even though it could also be used while you say: La cuenta, ¿por favor? which means “The bill, please?”

Check out some tips for eating at restaurants in Spain.

4- ¿Lo pillas?

Meaning: “Do you get it?”

How to do: Hold your index finger and thumb up while the rest of your fingers are closed, and pretend to hold an object with them while you twist your wrist towards the other person. Your fingers will be a bit more open than in the image.

When or where to use: We normally use this gesture after telling a joke or a pun.

5- Estar muy delgado or Estar como un fideo

Index Finger Pointing Up

Meaning: “To be skinny”

How to do: There are a couple of very similar options, and both of them include holding your fist up and extending one finger out. One of these versions is to extend your pinky finger, and the other one is to show your index finger. Both mean the same thing, so don’t worry.

When or where to use: You can use this gesture when you’re talking to someone about somebody else who you think is (or became) very skinny, or when you see someone and point out to them that they lost weight, or are thin in general. It can be used in a negative or positive way.

Here are some more words that will help you describe the way someone looks.

6- Ojo or Mira

Meaning: “Watch out” or “Look”

How to do: You need to put your index finger on your cheekbone under your eye, and pull it once or twice.

When or where to use: You can use this gesture when you want to tell your friend to look at something or someone without using words. You can also use it to tell them to be careful.

5. How Can Help You Learn Spanish

We know this might seem complicated, especially when you’re starting to learn a language, but there’s nothing to worry about. As we mentioned before, these gestures aren’t necessary to speak Spanish, or to understand it, but they’re helpful and make communication more natural. We’re sure that by now you understand the importance of body language in Spain!

Were you already familiar with any of these Spanish gestures? Did you learn new ones? Let us know in the comments!

Even if you’re a beginner, you can start practicing and getting familiar with them, but no one is going to judge you if you don’t use them, or if you miss a nonverbal cue in Spanish! If used wrong, however, you might confuse them, so be careful!

But we’re sure you won’t confuse “laughing really hard” with “I’m fed up,” or anything like that, and we’re also sure you won’t use the middle finger without meaning to, especially after reading this guide.

So now you’ve practiced something that’s related to your oral skills, even though they’re actually silent. But what about your reading skills? Check out our Top Ways to Practice Your Spanish Reading Skills. Of course, we can’t forget your listening skills either!

Are you interested in moving to Spain and finding a job there? In that case, we have the perfect article for you.

For some more interesting content, here’s a list of the Top 10 Free Spanish Lessons. Start with a bonus, and download your FREE cheat sheet – How to Improve Your Spanish Skills! (Logged-In Member Only)

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Celebrating Grandparents Day in Mexico

Grandprarents Day in Mexico

National Grandparents Day in Mexico, thought to have been derived from the holiday of the same name in the United States, is a day set aside to honor grandparents. In a society where it’s common for Mexican grandparents to live in the same house as their family, it’s no wonder that this holiday would be adapted.

In this article, you’ll learn all about Mexican Grandparents Day. This, in turn, will lend you greater cultural understanding—a vital step in mastering any language. At, we hope to make this learning journey both fun and informative!

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1. What is Grandparents Day in Mexico?

Each year, Mexicans set aside a special day just to honor their grandparents. This tradition is actually based on Grandparents Day in the United States, which was created by a woman named Marian McQuade.

This holiday extends beyond grandparents, and people in both the U.S. and Mexico treat Grandparents Day as a time to help the general elderly population—especially those in nursing homes or hospitals—as much as possible.

2. When is Grandparents Day in Mexico?

Grandparents Day is on August 28

Mexicans celebrate Grandparents Day each year on August 28.

3. Grandparents Day Celebrations

Granddaughter Giving Grandparent Present

Celebrations and traditions for Grandparents Day vary, and this holiday hasn’t received as much popularity in Mexico as in the U.S.

Note that in Mexico, it’s common for grandparents to live either in the same household as their children and grandchildren, or very nearby. This means that grandparents really are an active part of their children’s and grandchildren’s lives, and are not to be ignored.

Those whose grandparents are still around may choose to spend time with them, give them Grandparents Day gifts, or even send a heartfelt letter to thank them for the role they’ve played in that person’s life. Grandparents are, after all, some of the sweetest and most understanding people a person will have around. Oftentimes, the family will prepare a favorite meal, as well.

Smaller children love to make crafts for their grandparents, and due to the closeness of grandparents to the rest of their family, visits are always welcome and attainable!

Another way to celebrate Grandparents Day is to donate to charity or otherwise partake in events dedicated to honoring and respecting Mexico’s elderly population.

4. International Day of Older Persons

A similar celebration is called International Day of Older Persons, which takes place on October 1 of each year. While Grandparents Day tends to focus on one’s own grandparents, this holiday has a much broader focus on the elderly in general.

Specifically, International Day of Older Persons seeks to shed light on common problems shared by the older population worldwide. Another one of its goals is to honor and be grateful for all that the elderly population has accomplished and offered to the world, and to each country.

5. Useful Vocabulary for Grandparents Day in Mexico

Black-Framed Eyeglasses

Here’s some vocabulary you should know for Grandparents Day in Mexico!

  • Abuela — “Grandmother”
  • Abuelo — “Grandfather”
  • Regalo — “Present”
  • Nieta — “Granddaughter”
  • Familia — “Family
  • Nieto — “Grandson”
  • Arruga — “Wrinkle”
  • Viejo — “Old”
  • 28 de agosto — “August 28”
  • Anteojos — “Eyeglasses”

To hear each vocabulary word pronounced, check out our Mexican Grandparents Day vocabulary list! You’ll also find a relevant image beside each word, to maximize your memorization!


We hope you enjoyed learning about the Grandparents Day Mexico celebrates each year! Does your country have a Grandparents Day celebration, or a similar holiday? Tell us about it in the comments! We look forward to hearing from you. 🙂

To continue learning about Spanish and Mexican culture and the language, explore We offer an array of fun and practical learning tools for every type of learner:

  • Insightful blog posts on various cultural and language-related topics
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If you prefer a one-on-one learning approach, or want to give it a try, be sure to upgrade to Premium Plus. Doing so will give you access to your own personal teacher, as well as a personalized plan based on your needs and language-learning goals!

Whatever your reason for learning Spanish, know that your hard work and determination will pay off. You’ll be speaking, writing, and reading Spanish like a native before you know it, and will be here with you on each step of your journey to language mastery!

Happy Grandparents Day!

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Feliz Dia de la Madre: Celebrate Mother’s Day in Spain!

¡Feliz Dia de la Madre!

Mother’s Day, or Dia de la Madre, is a deeply significant holiday in Spain. Take, for instance, the following information:

A study was done in 2012 about the role of European mothers. The psychologist responsible for the Spanish case said that “the Spanish mother has become the administrator of the household and is the fundamental pillar of the family structure.”

A surprising fact was learning that they dedicate only thirty-nine minutes to themselves, versus fifty minutes for the rest of European mothers. The study also showed that fifty-three percent consider the hug to be the best demonstration of gratitude, even ahead of helping with the household chores.

What better day than this celebration for Spanish mothers to be able to receive from their family, and from society, the recognition they deserve. And in Mother’s Day, Spain does just this.

At, we hope to make learning about Mother’s Day both fun and insightful. From Spanish Mother’s Day gifts to Mother’s Day flowers, Spain celebrates similarly to the rest of the world, but with its own flair. Let’s learn more about the significance of the mother in Spanish society and her special day!

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1. What is Mother’s Day in Spain?

It’s said that this festival’s origin is from the tribute that was made to the mother of Zeus, Hades, and Poseidon in Greek mythology, Rea. The Romans adopted it, but the Catholics were the first to call it Mother’s Day in honor of the Virgin Mary.

In seventeenth-century England, they celebrated the Sunday of Mothers. Children attended mass and then gave some presents to their mothers. The English colonists tried to keep the celebration alive in the United States, but it was eventually abandoned.

It was in 1914 when it was established as an official celebration following a campaign organized by Anna Marie Jarvis.

Around the world, Mother’s Day is a day to celebrate one’s mother and other motherly figures in their life. This is often done through gift-giving or doing nice things for them.

2. When is Mother’s Day in Spain?

Mother's Day is on a Sunday

The date of Mother’s Day varies from year to year, though it always falls on the first Sunday of May. For your convenience, here’s a list of this holiday’s date for the next ten years.

  • 2019: May 5
  • 2020: May 3
  • 2021: May 2
  • 2022: May 1
  • 2023: May 7
  • 2024: May 5
  • 2025: May 4
  • 2026: May 3
  • 2027: May 2
  • 2028: May 7

3. Reading Practice: How is Dia de la Madre Celebrated?

Mother Receiving Affection from Children

How is Mother’s Day celebrated in Spain? Read the Spanish text below to find out, and find the English translation directly below it.

Lo cierto es que las costumbres de este día en España no son muy diferentes a las del resto del mundo. Las flores, sobre todo claveles o rosas, los bombones y las manualidades que los niños preparan en clase, las encontramos en cualquier país. Grandes comidas familiares y regalos también forman parte de la tradición. No son pocos los que creen, por este motivo, que detrás de esta fiesta hay grandes intereses comerciales.

Como en el resto de países existen ciertos regalos que es bastante típico hacerles a las madres. No es de extrañar que ante la aparente falta de originalidad hayan surgido últimamente multitud de sitios web españoles que al acercarse estas fechas proponen originales ideas para regalar.

The truth is that the customs of this day in Spain are not very different from those in the rest of the world. Flowers, especially carnations or roses, chocolates, and crafts that children prepare in class, are found in every country. Large family meals and gifts are also part of the tradition. For this reason, there are many who believe that there are great commercial interests behind this celebration.

As in other countries, there are certain gifts that are commonly given to mothers. It is no wonder that with the apparent lack of originality, numerous websites have appeared in Spain that suggest original ideas for gifts as this date approaches.

4. Additional Information: Original Date of Spanish Mother’s Day

Do you know when this day was previously celebrated in Spain?

Initially, it was celebrated on December 8, the day of the Immaculate Conception and the date that is observed worldwide by the Catholic Church. However, over time the date was changed to the first Sunday in May. This was also done in Hungary, Lithuania, Portugal, South Africa, and Romania.

5. Must-know Vocab

Gift Certificate

Here’s some vocabulary you should know for Mother’s Day in Spain!

  • Cena — “Dinner
  • Domingo — “Sunday”
  • Hijo — “Son”
  • Hija — “Daughter”
  • Rosa — “Rose”
  • Regalo — “Present”
  • Madre — “Mother”
  • Chocolate — “Chocolate”
  • Amar — “Love
  • Celebrar — “Celebrate”
  • Desayuno en la cama — “Breakfast in bed”
  • Felicitación — “Greeting card”
  • Cheque regalo — “Gift certificate”

To hear each vocabulary word pronounced, check out our Mother’s Day in Spain vocabulary list, where you’ll find each word accompanied by an audio file of its pronunciation.


What are your thoughts on Spanish Mother’s Day? Does your country have similar celebrations and traditions, or very different ones? Let us know in the comments!

To learn more about Spanish culture and the language, visit us at There’s something here for every learner, from insightful blog posts to an array of vocabulary lists, and an online community to discuss lessons with fellow Spanish learners! If you haven’t yet, you can also check out our MyTeacher program, which gives you the opportunity to learn Spanish one-on-one with your own personal teacher.

Learning a new language and becoming knowledgeable in its country’s culture is a huge feat and one that you won’t regret. Your hard work will pay off, and before you know it, you’ll be speaking Spanish like a native! will be here to support you on your way there!

Until next time, Feliz Día de la Madre (“Happy Mother’s Day” in Spanish)!

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Carnaval in Spain: How to Celebrate the Spanish Carnival

In 2010, the Cádiz Carnivals were considered to be one of the ten treasures of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Spain. According to some historians, the origin of this festival, which usually lasts three days and in which people dress up in costumes, dates back to ancient Egypt and Sumer, about 5,000 years ago.

Thus, you can see how the Spanish Carnival is an integral part of Spain’s culture. Let show you all the interesting facets of the Spanish Carnival, including the famous burial of the Sardine and more Spanish Carnival facts!

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1. What is Spanish Carnival?

In Spain, Carnival is a time of feasting and celebration before the Lent period of fasting. This is a holiday long celebrated throughout history, and the concept is common throughout the world—that of indulgence and fun before the fasting begins.

From Spanish Carnival masks to an array of exciting dances, the Spanish Carnival is quite the celebration. Indeed, the Carnival of Spain is not something to be missed!

2. When is it?

Large Group of People

The date of the Spanish Carnival season varies each year as it depends on the date of Easter. For your convenience, here’s this holiday’s date for the next ten years:

  • 2019: March 4
  • 2020: February 24
  • 2021: February 15
  • 2022: January 31
  • 2023: February 20
  • 2024: February 12
  • 2025: March 3
  • 2026: February 16
  • 2027: February 8
  • 2028: February 28

3. How is it Celebrated?

Two People Dancing

Learn about how the Spanish Carnival is celebrated by reading the Spanish text below (you can find the English translation directly below it).
Aunque dura oficialmente 11 días, los ensayos, concursos y actos gastronómicos consiguen que el ambiente de carnaval dure cerca de un mes. De Cadiz son conocidísimas las chirigotas. Son agrupaciones músico coral que canta principalmente por las calles ofreciendo coplas humorísticas. Es típico en estas fechas ver los concursos de estas y otras agrupaciones por televisión.

El Carnaval de Santa Cruz de Tenerife es otro de los más populares. En esta fiesta se disfruta de más de una semana de música, baile y disfraces. A estos días le preceden otros en los que tiene lugar la presentación de las candidatas a Reina. También los diversos concursos de murgas infantiles y adultas, que tienen su origen en las chirigotas gaditanas. Se realiza al final el Entierro de la Sardina. Consiste en un desfile que parodia un cortejo fúnebre y culmina con la quema de una figura, normalmente representando a una sardina. Se celebra tradicionalmente el miércoles de Ceniza.

En el Carnaval de Gran Canaria se celebran dos galas de gran fama. Una en la se que elige la Reina y otra en la que se elige al Drag Queen del Carnaval. La fiesta comienza con el pregón del Carnaval. Un acto muy esperado también es la Gran Cabalgata del sábado siguiente a la Gala de elección de la Reina y del Drag Queen.

En Solsona cuenta la leyenda que enviaron un burro a comer la hierba del campanario de la catedral. Decidieron subirlo colgado del cuello y el animal vació en este momento la vejiga sobre el público. Hoy se sigue recordando en sus carnavales esto con la ‘Colgada del burro’… aunque el animal es de cartón-piedra y peluche, y relleno de agua.

Though they officially last 11 days, gastronomic events, competitions and rehearsals make the atmosphere of Carnival last about a month. From Cádiz, the “chirigotas” are extremely well known. They are musical choir groups who sing mainly in the streets, offering humorous verses. It is typical on these dates to see the contests between these and other groups on television.

The Carnival of Santa Cruz de Tenerife is another of the most popular ones. At this celebration you can enjoy more than one week of music, dancing and costumes. These days are preceded by others in which the presentation of the candidates to the throne of the Queen takes place. There are also different contests for children’s and adults’ bands of street musicians, which have their origin in the Cadiz Carnival. These are held at the end of the burial of the sardine. That consists of a parade that parodies a funeral procession and culminates with the burning of a figure, usually representing a sardine. This is traditionally celebrated on Ash Wednesday.

In the Gran Canaria Carnival, two very famous galas are held: one in which the Queen is chosen and another in which the Drag Queen of the Carnival is chosen. The celebration begins with the proclamation of the Carnival. Another highly anticipated event is a parade held on the Saturday following the election of the Queen and Drag Queen.

In Solsona the legend has it a donkey was sent to eat the grass of the bell tower of the Cathedral. The people decided to lift it by hanging it from the neck, at which time, the animal emptied its bladder over the crowd. Today this is still remembered at its Carnivals with the “hanging of the donkey”… Although the animal now is papier-mâché, plush, and filled with water.

4. Additional Information

However, there are many other places in the country where Carnival leaves a different mark, a more ritual one. In these places, the celebration is focused on rural and indigenous communities, in Spanish “comunidades indígenas,” where the participants take over the streets and rejoice in the music, dancing, regional masks, and costumes or “disfraces”. These aspects combine to transform the celebration into a more locally traditional affair.

The Carnival of Morelos is one of the ones that best preserve this local tradition. Here, the most popular dance is the chinelos’ dance, or “danza de los chinelos”, a dance which has been preserved with few changes for more than a century.

A “chinelo” is a comical representation of the Spanish colonial people. These Spanish Carnival costumes are fantastically vivid—long robes of velvet and multicolor layers, palm hats covered with black velvet that extend upward, decorated with fretwork, flowers, drawings and feathers; and masks with a white complexion and rosy cheeks, blue eyes, a mustache and pointy beard. You certainly won’t forget seeing these Spanish Carnival costumes!

The celebration starts with the procession of the chinelos, who begin by doing a few dances. Upon arriving at the plaza square, they begin to jump up and down, hopping on their tiptoes. The dancers jump energetically, spinning around, and continue for hours until it’s time for the “fireworks,” or fuegos artificiales, and popular dance.

5. Must-know Vocab

Carnival Queen Image

Here’s some vocabulary you should know for Spanish Carnival season!

  • Abarrotado — “Crowded”
  • Bailar — “Dance”
  • Carnaval — “Carnival”
  • Desfile — “Parade”
  • Disfraz — “Costume”
  • Reina del carnaval — “Carnival queen”
  • Entierro de la sardina — “Burial of the Sardine”
  • Máscara — “Mask”
  • Confeti — “Confetti”
  • Celebración — “Celebration”

If you want to hear each of these vocabulary words pronounced, visit our Carnival in Spain vocabulary list. Here, you’ll find each word accompanied by an audio of its pronunciation.


Wow! What do you think of the Carnival in Spain and Mexico? Do you celebrate Carnival or a similar holiday in your own country? Let us know in the comments!

To learn even more about Spanish culture and the language, visit us at We offer an array of insightful blog posts, free vocabulary lists, and even an online community to discuss lessons with fellow Spanish learners. Further, you can check out our MyTeacher program if you’re interested in a one-on-one learning experience with your own personal Spanish teacher!

We hope you enjoyed learning about the Carnival Spanish holiday and that you took something valuable away from this lesson. Keep up the hard work and you’ll begin to speak like a native in no time, and be a master of the culture!

Dia de la Candelaria: How to Celebrate Candlemas in Mexico


In the very Catholic Mexico, many celebrate the religious holiday known as Candlemas (or Dia de la Candelaria in Spanish). By learning about this holiday, you’re also immersing yourself in one of the most important aspects of Mexican culture: its people’s religious beliefs, and how they’re expressed through celebration.

So, what is Candlemas Day in Mexico? What are the most common Mexican holidays and traditions surrounding this holiday? Learn more about the significance of the Nativity scene in this holiday and more, with

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1. What is Spanish Candlemas?

Candlemas in Mexico may be best known as the day that Mexicans finally take down the Nativity scene that they put up before Christmas. This is a very religious holiday, and is also known as the day of the “Presentation of Jesus at the Temple.”

This name takes root in the biblical book of Luke, and also commemorates the cleansing of the Blessed Virgin Mary. According to Jewish custom, a woman must be cleansed about a month after giving birth and so Candlemas is thought to be the approximate time Mary would have done so.

2. When is it?


Mexicans celebrate Candlemas forty days after Christmas, February 2, each year.

3. How is it Celebrated?


On Dia de la Candelaria, Mexicans take down the Nativity scene that they set up before Christmas. Further, many people will dress up figures of the baby Jesus to be blessed once at the iglesia, or “church.” This blessed figurine Jesus is then placed somewhere to dwell for the rest of the year, sometimes with a family who’s then expected to open their home to any visitors for that period of time.

Another common tradition is the gathering of family and friends to feast together, particularly on tamals, or “tamales.” During this fiesta, or “party,” many Mexicans also make a special bread called rosca, which is shaped like a wreath and contains a figurine of the baby Jesus baked inside of it. A fun tradition centering on this is that the person who finds this figurine is the one to dress the Baby Jesus that will be blessed.

Sometimes this Baby Jesus is a relic possessed by the family for many generations, making it a very sentimental aspect of the holiday. However, other families go out and buy a new one if they don’t already have one. Regardless of how long this Baby Jesus figurine has been in the family for, its blessing at the church is one of the most important things that will happen all year and is greatly relished by the family as a whole.

While feasting, they also like to drink something called atole, which has a corn base and is typically served hot or warm. This beverage is certainly fitting to the comfort and warmth that Dia de la Candelaria holds.

There are some places in Mexico that really go all out with Candlemas celebrations, complete with bull fights and special parades to enjoy.

4. Additional Information

The Nativity scene, or in Spanish Nacimiento, is a representation of Jesus Christ’s birth. They’re always set up prior to Christmas, traditionally on December 8, according to the celebration of the Conception; they stay up until February 2, the day of Candlemas.

Under the Mexican tradition, Nativity scenes represent Mary and Joseph with clay figures in a manger or a “stable,” or establo, joined by a “mule,” or mula, and an “ox,” or toro. The scene can also include other figures to adore the Christ child, such as “shepherds,” or pastores, “angels,” or ángeles, and the “star of Bethlehem,” or estrella de Belén.

There are Nativity scenes of all shapes and sizes. Some people put up extravagant ones, with cascades, rivers, lakes where ducks swim, shepherds and their flocks of sheep, and many other characters who attend to offer gifts to Baby Jesus. These gifts often include pots, hens, vegetables, and fruits.

Some of these Nativity scenes are mobile, where the figures are moved around from day to day according to what happens in the biblical events; shepherds are moved, and the “Three Wise Men,” or Tres Reyes Magos, draw near the manger as the Epiphany draws near.

5. Must-know Vocab for Candelario in Mexico

Finally, once Candlemas arrives, these Nativity scenes are taken down to make way for the Candlemas celebrations!

Candlemas Day

Here’s some vocabulary you should know to celebrate Mexican Candlemas Day to its fullest! Be sure to study these in order to improve your Spanish vocabulary and pronunciation.

  • febrero — “February”
  • bebé — “baby”
  • madre — “mother”
  • vela — “candle”
  • iglesia — “church”
  • atole — “atole” (a drink served in Mexico, usually served hot or warm, with a corn base)
  • Virgen María — “Virgin Mary”
  • tamal — “tamal”
  • fiesta — “party”
  • Candelaria — “Candlemas”
  • rosca — “rosca” (a type of bread shaped like a wreath, with a baby figurine inside of it and candied fruit on top)

To hear the pronunciation of each word as well, be sure to check out our Spanish Candlemas vocabulary list. Each word is accompanied by an audio file with the word’s pronunciation.


You’ve learned a lot about how Mexicans celebrate Dia de la Candelaria, particularly the significance of the Nativity scene and the blessing of the Baby Jesus figurine.

Do you celebrate Candlemas in your home country, or a holiday like it? Let us know in the comments!

To learn more about Mexican holidays and traditions, and its culture in general, visit us at We offer an array of vocabulary lists and blog posts, and we even host an online community where you can discuss topics you’re learning with fellow students. And if you want a more one-on-one approach to your learning, you can download our MyTeacher app!

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  • The Top 10 Spanish Words & Phrases For Going On A Date

    The Top 10 Words You'll Need For A Date!

    Hey Listeners!

    Summer is here and love is in the air! But are you going to be able to go on that date with that special someone… who only speaks Spanish?!

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    1. I love you.
    Te amo.

    2. You’re so beautiful.
    Eres tan bella.

    3. Heart

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    4. Date
    salir con

    5. I think of you as more than a friend.
    Pienso en ti como algo más que un amigo.

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    6. Kiss

    7. I’ve got a crush on you.
    Me estoy enamorando de ti.

    8. Love

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    9. Girlfriend

    10. We were meant to be together.
    Estámos destinados a estar juntos.

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    4. Summer Vacation Words
    5. The Most Common Break Up Lines

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