Did you remeber to buy your significant other flowers? Are you going out to dinner with friends? Why should you? Well because today is El Día del Amor y la Amistad!
I am told this holiday sounds less ridiculous in Spanish, but initially I was still unsure how seriously to take it. Was the friendship part just tacked on to make it a little better than Valentine’s Day? Yes and no. Like our own romantic but Hallmark infused holiday there are both people who enjoy the excuse to get together and appreciate the ones they cherish, and there are also people who say it’s gone too commercial, but the “friendship” part really is valued not just as consolation for singles.
One friendship aspect of this holiday is schoolkids playing “secret friend,” a game very much like secret santa in the states. For those not familiar with this, everyone in a class or some group draws names (from that group) and for some set amount of time has to leave little secret gifts for that person. At the end your secret friend is revealed and everyone is happy woo hoo. For me this has often been an ordeal in trying to find interesting cheap gifts and being given things like a bag of skittles and a mix cd, but I am told some people actually find this fun. There are also the usual chocolate, flower, and dinner expectations for couples, but also just hanging out with friends expectations.
Valentine’s Day, or whatever it happens to be in your country, seems to be a varying phenomenon. In much of the rest of South America El Día del Amor y la Amistad is celebrated on February 14th, except in Brazil where that is too close to Carnival and is instead on June 12th, the day before Saint Anthony’s Day, seeing that he is the marriage saint. Many places have an imported American version of the holiday, but places like Finland and Estonia have days that translate to Friendship Day and are more generally appreciative.
In Japan only girls give chocolate on Valentine’s Day, but it is even to male coworkers not just a specific someone. The difference is in the type and amount of chocolate, a loved one will get handmade chocolate while a coworker will get cheap store stuff. Then a month later, on March 14th, the men have to reciprocate. If they are just a coworker they can reciprocate with an equally cheap gift, but otherwise they need to outdo the first gift unless they are looking to end the relationship. As an often recited rules goes, the man’s gift should be “triple the return,” or more expensive. The return gift used to be mainly chocolate but has since branched out into jewelry and white things like white chocolate, cookies, marshmallows, and white lingerie. I hear of a similar event in South Korea, although this odd holiday is a comparatively recent fabrication and there is an older one called Tanabata that originated in China.
So what are we up to? Not much. Lazying around, eating leftovers, playing with the cat. Sounds like an excellent Day of Love and Friendship to me.