Jack T. Chakhesang
Life in today’s world has become such that almost every day is being observed, or celebrated or dedicated for something or the other—you name it— and the list is too long to enumerate here.
Be that as it may, what is relevant at this moment is Friendship Day which is celebrated on the first Sunday of August every year. (We have just missed it today but as they say, better late a day or so than never!) In any case, like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Children’s day and so on, every day is also Friendship Day.
This occasion is dedicated to friends and companions; it’s the time when you cherish the loveliest relationship you possess, the commitment which marks the foundation for all relationships.
FRIENDSHIP DAY HISTORY
The tradition of celebrating Friendship Day started primarily in the West. On the first of August, 1935, a Saturday, the American Government hanged a man to death…listening to this his friend’s death, his best friend committed suicide on the next day (i.e on Sunday). So due to that, the first Sunday of August is considered as Friendship Day.
In fact, the U.S Congress announced the first Sunday of August as the National Friendship Day. They realized the importance which friends play in each one’s life and thus dedicated a special day for friends. The idea soon caught up in other countries as well, as even they realized the importance of honouring friends. It was important because the devastating effects of the First World War still were showing and increasing hostilities, mistrust and hatred between countries providing the perfect conditions for another imminent battle. There was a greater need for friendship and camaraderie not only among nations but also among individuals.
Following the tradition, Friendship Day is today celebrated by several countries across the globe. It is celebrated in Arabic and Chinese speaking countries; the French call it “Journée internationale de l’amitié,” and the Spanish call it “Día del Amigo.” The day has been celebrated in several South American countries for many years, particularly in Paraguay, where the first World Friendship Day—International Friendship Day was proposed on July 20, 1958 by Dr. Ramon Artemio Bracho during a dinner with friends in Puerto Pinasco, a town on the River Paraguay about 200 miles north of its capital, Asuncion. Out of this humble meeting of friends, the World Friendship Crusade was born.
The World Friendship Crusade is a foundation that promotes friendship and fellowship among all human beings, regardless of race, color or religion. Since then, July 30 has been faithfully celebrated as Friendship Day in Paraguay every year and has also been adopted by several other countries.
In Argentina, Friend’s Day, on July 20, is an excuse for a friendly gathering and greeting both current and old friends. Since it is not an Argentine public holiday people tend to gather during the evening. In Brazil, Friend’s Day is also celebrated on July 20. Since 2009, Peru celebrates “El dia del Amigo” on the first Saturday in July. The objective was to recognize true friendship and differentiate its celebration from Valentine’s Day.
Interestingly, in Finland and Estonia, Valentine’s Day is celebrated as Friend’s Day.
Friend’s Day has in recent years turned into a very popular mass phenomenon. The amount of well-wishing friends led to breakdown of the mobile phone network in many cities around the world and comparable to the ones experienced on Christmas and New Year’s Day. Seats in most restaurants, bars, and other establishments are often completely booked a week before the celebration.
The Times of India, New Delhi, wrote “A band for ties of friendship” while The Telegraph, Calcutta, wrote on “Flavours of Friendship” among others on this loveable occasion and towards promoting the Culture of Peace.
Friendship Day was originated by Joyce Hall, the founder of Hallmark cards in 1930, intended to be August 02 and a day when people celebrated their friendships by holiday celebrations. Friendship Day actually dates from 1919.
It was promoted by the greeting card National Association during the 1920s but met with consumer resistance—given that it was too obviously a “commercial gimmick” to promote greetings cards. By the 1940s the number of Friendship Day cards available in the US had dwindled and the holiday largely died out there. There is no evidence to date for its uptake in Europe; however, it has been kept alive and revitalized in Asia.
In honor of Friendship Day in 1998, Nane Annan, wife of then UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, named Winnie the Pooh (of Comics fame) as the world’s Ambassador of Friendship at the United Nations. The event was co-sponsored by the U.N. Department of Public Information and Disney Enterprises, and was co-hosted by Kathy Lee Gifford.
The General Assembly of the United Nations decided to invite all Member States to observe the International Day of Friendship in accordance with the culture and customs of their local, national and regional communities, including through education and public awareness-raising activities. In India it is also known as Shru and Sanjya day.
Some friends acknowledge each other with exchanges of gifts and cards on this day. Friendship bands are very popular in India, Nepal, Bangladesh, and parts of South America. With the advent of social networking sites, Friendship Day is also being celebrated online. The commercialization of the Friendship Day celebrations has led to some dismissing it as a “marketing gimmick”. But nowadays it is celebrated on the first Sunday of August rather than July 30.
Evidence from social networking sites shows a revival of interest in the holiday that may have grown with the spread of the Internet, particularly in India, Bangladesh, and Malaysia. Digital communication modes such as the Internet and mobile phones may be helping to popularize the custom, since greeting friends en masse is now easier than before. The exchange of Friendship Day gifts like flowers, cards and wrist bands is a popular tradition of this occasion.
Friendship Day celebrations occur on different dates in different countries. However, some countries, including India, celebrate Friendship Day on the first Sunday of August. In Oberlin Ohio, USA, Friendship Day is celebrated on April 08 each year.
SINCE TIME IMMEMORIAL
While Friendship Day officially came into existence in the year 1935, a glimpse into numerous folktales and mythological legends prove the importance of friendship since time immemorial.
In the Bible, the importance of friends is clearly visible from the Old Testament, when Abraham is referred to as the “Friend of God” and the relationship of Lord Jesus and his disciples in the New Testament depicts the value of friendship.
In the famous Hindu epic Mahabharata, Lord Krishna also displays all the emotions of friendship. The beautiful idea of celebrating a day for friendship has been gaining momentum ever since the inception of the relationship and today, it has acquired the status of being one of the major festivals celebrated by people at large. People all around the globe pay tribute to their friends for being there whenever it was needed the most.
Even in Hindi films, the value is emphasized and to paraphrase the Book of Proverbs: “A good friend who is nearby (like a neighbour) is better than a brother who is far off elsewhere.” Also, there is the saying that a friend in need is a friend indeed. At the same time, the Good Samaritan (Luke 10: 25 – 37) was no friend of the robbed traveler but his good will act saved the victim’s life—that made him a friend in deed.
WHAT IS FRIENDSHIP?
In life, everybody has many friends. And there are many types of friends. Some are cordial while others are formal. A few are developed from childhood and lasts a life time; some others go wayward and become antagonists—even life-long enemies—while some friends are acquired or developed at various stages and times of our lives making us cordial and/or formal friends, even fast friends.
Friends are personal affairs while comrades (in arms or pens) or colleagues are those with whom we share a common goal, profession or political ideology or philosophy. Then we also have school mates with whom we are friendly but from a little distance and some we could never like for whatever reason(s).
The word “Friend” is derived from the Middle English frend; and Anglo- Saxon freond, meaning friend, lover; which is akin to the German freund and in the Germanic verb “to love” which is represented in the Anglo-Saxon by freogan; and in the Indo-European base it is “to be fond of, hold dear” as also in the Sanskrit priya that is, “dear, desired.”
OTHER TYPES OF FRIENDSHIP
The current (overground) political scenario in our Beloved Nagaland for Christ has succinctly proved the existence of other kinds of friendship—above and beyond the call of chivalry. It has verified the time-honoured adage that your friend’s friend is also your friend but that your enemy’s enemy can be your mutual friend. Moreover, your enemy’s friend is prima facie your enemy too.
Then there are the so-called good time friends (including girls) also known as fair weather friends like those who left the prodigal son when he had squandered his inheritance in a distant land (Luke 15: 11-31). Some of the greatest betrayers have been the best of friends who were considered irreproachable; that is why throughout history till present times the number one was usually very wary of his number two. And so on as the French say, “C’est la vie” (that is life—as it goes on).
Be that as it may, there is always a way out of all this. For all right thinking humans…. Reconciliation. This is a fine word and very idealistic but not difficult to implement but for the rigid mindset of many men and women who steadfastly refuse to move along with the times and still adhere to the Old Testament maxim of “an eye for an eye” and so on. Nevertheless, the New Testament advocates repentance and redemption for salvation.
Thus when there are friends, there can be enemies also in various degrees. Enemies are easier to make than to find a true friend. And yet as Abraham Lincoln said: “Do I not destroy my enemies by making them my friends?”
There have also been many instances in history when enemy nations became allies when they wed their princes and princesses—all for peace and progress in the larger interest of the people.
LAST BUT NOT LEAST
Use this special day and make all your friends know that you care!