Should the U.S. Celebrate Friendship Day?
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Valentine’s Day gets enough attention. Isn’t it time we honored our friends?
By Lorena O'Neil
In the United States we have certain holidays, outside of religious ones, that focus on the importance of a relationship: Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Valentine’s Day. In celebrating our loved ones, we seem to be ignoring a fairly significant group: our friends. Remember those people, the ones who let you whine to them when your mom, dad or significant other is frustrating you? Don’t they deserve a day, a little reward for putting up with your crap? Or, if you want to be narcisstic about it, don’t you deserve a day for being such a good friend to everyone?
In Buenos Aires Friendship Day dinner celebrations have become so popular it’s hard to get reservations to restaurants unless you book well in advance.
To date, Friendship Day is not a big holiday here. In the States it is, at best, a passing Twitter trend like National Punctuation Day. Other than a few Facebook posts wishing everyone a happy Friendship Day and some related blog posts, the first Sunday of August goes unnoticed.
In other countries, Friendship Day warrants a bigger celebration. In Paraguay, for example, young kids are taught to play a game of “invisible friend,” similar to secret Santa, where you are assigned a friend to buy/make a gift for, delivered on Friendship Day, which they celebrate on July 30. In the countries that observe Friendship Day, adults often go to dinner with a group of friends to celebrate. If you have multiple groups of friends, it is not uncommon to schedule meals leading up to the day with various social circles. In Buenos Aires, Friendship Day has recently become so popular that it is hard to get reservations to restaurants unless you book well in advance.
Hallmark has received credit for starting Friendship Day in 1919, possibly as a way to sell more cards, which of course does seem to have worked out nicely for them with other holidays. But Hallmark denies creating holidays, stating, “While we’re honored that people so closely link the Hallmark name with celebrations and special occasions, we can’t take credit for creating holidays.” Another origin story is that the United States Congress created Friendship Day in 1935, making it the first Sunday of August. However, the holiday still has not caught on here like it has in other places.
Funnily enough, the origins of really celebrating Friendship Day are hazy, because multiple countries cannot agree over which one really launched the tradition. (Arguing over who is the friendliest of the friendly is totally in the spirit of this holiday. World, who is really your best friend? You can only choose one.)
Friends are nonbiological kinship formations, like marriages, except you aren’t expected to be monogamous.
In Paraguay, Dr. Ramon Artemio Bracho is said to have thought of the idea of World Friendship Day in 1958, when he began an International Friendship Crusade campaign to push for the celebration of the day. When the United Nations passed a resolution in 2011, declaring July 30 the International Day of Friendship, Paraguayan media rejoiced, and they still declare it a Paraguayan gesture to the world.
Argentina rejects this idea, saying their neighboring country’s celebrations never passed outside of its borders, although they acknowledge Bracho may have had the first attempt at creating International Friendship Day. Argentina’s “invention for the world” was apparently created by dentist Enrique Enersto Febbraro, who was so inspired by Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon that he declared us all connected and worked to get Friendship Day on the map.
Regardless of the origin, for the U.S. the day is barely a blip on the radar. Shouldn’t it be more than that? Some people will never be a parent, striking out Mother’s and Father’s Day. Others, like Linda Ronstadt, don’t necessarily consider a romantic partner their highest priority. ”I think there are many ways to live and many ways to establish intimate support in your life that can be from family or friends or great roommates that you like. It doesn’t have to be someone you’re sleeping with,” she said to NPR. Friends are nonbiological kinship formations, like marriages, except you aren’t expected to be monogamous. You don’t just have to have one date for Valentine’s Day, another for Friendship Day; you can have all the dates.
Plus, there are health benefits to having social connections. Social connections can improve our odds of survival by 50 percent, and a Brigham Young University study said low social interaction can be the risk equivalent of smoking 15 cigarettes a day and can be more harmful than not exercising. Mind-body physician Lissa Rankin also touts the health benefits of friendship. ”The research I’m doing for my book Mind Over Medicine shows that people with a close network of friends live longer, have healthier brains, survive breast cancer better, survive heart disease better, and get less colds,” she writes in a blog post.
So, what do you think? Should we take Friendship Day more seriously? Should we take a day to honor our besties?