July 30 is the United Nations International Day of Friendship. Read about the importance of friendship and find out why the UN decided to give it a special day.
The importance of friends
Friends come in all shapes and sizes. They may be someone we met as a child, a classmate at school, someone we met at work or through other friends. They may be friends who live at a distance in another country or virtual friends we've made online. Whoever they are, however we met them, there is a special connection based on a shared history and interests, enjoying doing things together or simply talking and understanding each other. Friends are there to help us at difficult times and to celebrate the good times. Doctors say that friends are very important for both our physical and mental health at all stages in life.
Declaring an international Friendship Day
But friends are not only important on an individual level. Friendship can also be important on a global level. Friendships that cross borders can help bring peace and avoid war. Learning to think of other people, people who are different from us, as our friends helps us work together to build a culture of peace. That's why the UN declared 30 July as its official International Day of Friendship.
The origins of the day
An international celebration was first suggested by the World Friendship Crusade. This organisation was founded by Dr Ramón Artemio Bracho and his friends in Puerto Pinasco, Paraguay, in 1958. They wanted to support the power of friendship and its importance in creating a culture of peace. So, in the same year, they decided to celebrate Friendship Week in Puerto Pinasco and other places in Paraguay. The following year, they repeated the week and finished on 30 July, which they declared as Friendship Day. From there, celebrations of friendship grew and spread across the Americas, then the world, and eventually the UN declared an International Day of Friendship in 2011.
Friendship Days around the world
The International Day of Friendship on 30 July is not the only day celebrating friendship around the world. A number of countries, such as Paraguay, also celebrate on 30 July, but other countries have different dates. For example, Argentina, Brazil and Spain celebrate Friend's Day on 20 July, while in India and the US, they celebrate it on the first Sunday in August. In Finland and Estonia, Friendship Day is celebrated on the same day as Valentine's Day, 14 February.
What do people do on the International Day of Friendship?
Wherever it's celebrated, the celebrations are very similar. Friends meet up to spend time together. They may eat out or have a meal at home. They give each other small gifts: books, flowers, simple jewellery such as a friendship band (a simple bracelet). Some people send each other cards and greetings online. Whatever form the celebration takes, the spirit is the same – to remember the importance of friends and the power of friendship.