Today, as I was strolling through the Facebook sea of posts on my news feed (because my mornings off are that lame), I was bombarded with lengthy statuses posted by my friends in Argentina. The recurring theme: Feliz dia del Amigo. Happy Friendship Day.
Holidays like Friendship Day are kind of a big deal in Argentina. I remember spending a couple of hours creating a photo collage of as many of my friends as possible on my host family’s computer and making it my profile picture for the day. Maybe it’s because people in South America like to celebrate a lot more than people in the US (yes, I compared a continent to a country. How dare I). After all, having more holidays that celebrate people inevitably becomes an incentive to go spend time with those people, instead of doing something “productive” like working twelve hour days at jobs we hate in order to barely make it financially.
So, because I know that there are lots of joke holidays that exist in the United States (Panic Day, March 9th), I decided to Google whether or not there is a Friendship Day in the United States. What I learned (via Wikipedia, of course) is that the holiday used to be celebrated, even with greeting cards, in the US, but in the 1940s, it became extinct. The rest of the world, however, seems to be on the ball. In many countries, Friendship Day is the first Sunday in August. In Paraguay, it is on the 30th of July, and in Argentina/Brasil/Uruguay, today (July 20th, because I know the post date is going to be off if you scroll back up to the top… yay midnight…) is Friendship Day.
It intrigues me that the US Friendship Day died out in the 1940s. Was it a result of WWII? Losing a holiday like Friendship Day does seem to coincide historically and philosophically with the emergence of Modernism and its individualistic focus. But despite our socially acceptable individualism, people still have friends. Why should we stop celebrating our friends?
When we don’t celebrate our friends, we begin to forget the importance of friendship, and the work it takes to maintain friendships. Friendship is a relationship, and given that most people we know aren’t blood relatives or romantic entanglements, friends make up the majority of our relationships. And our friends deserve for us to recognize their importance .
Two examples from my life. I have a friend named Kimberly and a friend named Maria. I have seen Kimmy in real life for a sum total of six weeks, and I haven’t seen Mery except through Skype in (almost exactly) four years. I live hundreds of miles away from both of them. But I consider them to be good friends. Why? We make a concerted effort to keep in touch.
And it’s hard. Kimmy is not always very healthy, and sometimes she physically does not have the energy to pick up the phone. Those periods of time when we don’t get to talk trouble me, because I know that it’s her health causing the disconnect. Mery was and is my best friend in Argentina, and she’s still in Argentina. When we talk on the phone, it usually has to be short, and it happens rarely because of how expensive it is, so we both have Skype. But for some reason, Skype tends to crash on one of us three or four times within an hour of trying to talk. I don’t know if it’s bad internet connections or what. So with the distances between us and the limitations of technology and poor health, it is hard to stay in regular touch with both of these (absolutely fantastic) people.
And yet, we do. We work hard to maintain our relationships. And I am grateful for it. Their friendships are important to me because they help form a part of who I am. We spend a lot of time celebrating ourselves, but hardly any time celebrating who or what makes up our character. We don’t take the time to celebrate our relationships (Argentina also has a Sibling Day, a Girlfriend Day, Mother’s and Father’s Days, Godparents Day etc). We don’t take the time to revere the people who are important to us, who help to make up our lives. But if we did, maybe we’d witness a healthy change in attitude towards each other. Maybe we’d see an increase in camaraderie and a decrease in bitterness. Maybe we’d see a little bit more of the love that South America is famous for.
So Happy Friendship Day, even though we don’t have one in the United States.