“With a little help from my friends”
(In 1967, this song was released by the Beatles for the 10th Anniversary of International Friendship Day)
What is International Friendship Day?
First proposed by the founder of Hallmark Cards, Joyce Hall, at the beginning of the 1930s, the day was not well received. It was thought to be yet another ‘gimmick’ to improve sales and was dismissed by a large proportion of the population.
The idea was gaining popularity in India, South America and Asia, but was still not popular enough for it to become the well-known international event it is today…so what happened?
In 1935, the US Congress announced the first Sunday of August as National Friendship Day, but the international aspect of the day was still a few decades off becoming a known entity.
On 30th July 1958 a Paraguayan by the name of Dr. Artemio Bracho proposed a ‘World Friendship Day’. This was when Paraguay celebrated the first international-based event. Yet it wasn’t until 27th April 2011 the day became officially recognised by the United Nations General Assembly, where they declared 30th July as International Friendship Day.
So, when should we celebrate this day?
The day is actually celebrated on a number of days depending on which country you are from. For example, most countries will celebrate on July 30th (designated by the UN), but others will celebrate on the first Sunday of August (announced by the US Congress in 1935). South Americans celebrate Día del Amigo on July 20th, but the USA have also dedicated the entire month of February to the celebration of friendship…confusing, right?
Why is it celebrated?
The exact reason for celebration is not entirely known but one of the proposed suggestions was the need to dissolve the mistrust, hatred and enmity among people after World War 1. It was thought the day could revive strong ties of global friendship.
We should celebrate our friendships and relationships with others as they form an extremely important part of our lives. Friends are the cohesive bonds that hold your life together; they are there for you in the best of times, the worst of times, and all the somewhat mediocre times in between!
Having lots of friends can extend your life! It has been proven by the Centre for Ageing Studies at Flinders University, Australia, that have people aged over 70 with an extensive network of friends tended to live 22% longer than those with smaller networks. Research has also found that having friends is a great stress-reliever and can drastically improve your mental well-being.
Winnie the Pooh:
You might be wondering what on earth has Winnie the Pooh got to do with International Friendship Day? Well, in 1998, the wife of the then UN General Secretary, Nane Annan, named the bear the Ambassador of Friendship. And who better to be the Ambassador of Friendship than the bear with a great personality and who was wise beyond his years…despite being “A Bear of Very Little Brain”?
Having grown up reading and watching Winnie the Pooh, I can see the clear reasoning behind him becoming the Ambassador. There are a huge number of relevant quotes from the books from a variety of the characters that mention friendships, companionships and relationships. These are some of my favourites:
- “A day without a friend is like a pot without a single drop of honey left inside.” — Winnie the Pooh
- “If you live to be a hundred, I want to live to be a hundred minus one day, so I never have to live without you.” – Piglet
- “A little Consideration, a little Thought for Others, makes all the difference.” – Eeyore
Celebrating Friendship Day:
There are several ways to get involved and celebrate this year’s International Friendship Day, many of which can be personalised and adapted to suit your way of celebrating your friends. Celebrating and appreciating your friends can take many forms, whether that be a personalised card or small gift, or simply thanking them for being there for you.
Other ideas include:
Sending time with your friends – take part in an activity you all love, or enjoy a coffee or cup of tea together, or maybe take a risk and doing something you’ve never done before (bungy-jumping anyone?!)
Send them a message – the amazing powers of social media allow us to constantly keep in contact with people and keep up to date with their lives. Or if you’re feeling particularly nostalgic…write a letter!
Small gifts – that feeling you get when someone has bought you a well-meaning gift is powerful and uplifting…the gift doesn’t have to be big or flashy to make an impact, just sentimental or well-meaning.
Reach out to old friends – losing touch with people as you grow up is inevitable, but today, reach out to those people and reconnect – make an effort to stay in each other’s lives, you were friends at one point, why not continue that now?
Read and watch Winnie the Pooh – whether you are a child, teenager or a fully-grown adult, reminding ourselves of the of the universal messages in the books is an excellent way to kickstart your friendship day.
Camera ready? – always have a camera to hand (it could be your phone, a disposable camera or a fancy DSLR) as the memories you make may not last forever, but those Kodak moments can serve as reminders of the good times you had with your friends.
DO NOT STOP APPRECIATING YOUR FRIENDS – it may seem silly to say but in today’s busy and ever-changing world it can be hard to find the time to simply appreciate what you’ve got. Friends are an important part of your life…so send those messages, spend that quality time with those you love and show your gratitude through your actions.
For this year’s friendship day, I won’t be able to celebrate the day with my friends in person as I am a long, long way from home (the flight from South Africa to the UK is a rather lengthy one to make for just one day!) Additionally, many of my friends themselves are spread out across the world today making celebrations even harder. So, I’ll be making my appreciation for them known through the wide-spreading powers of social media, and then we will most likely, in true British style, be heading to the nearest pub the second we all are on the same continent again!
So, here is my appreciation post for all these wonderful people; being thousands of miles away from you all is hard and I miss you very much, but I’ll see you soon and celebrate in true style at home!
“Anyone can show up when you’re happy. But the ones who stay by your side when your heart falls apart, they are your true friends.” – A.A. Milne