It sounds sweet, soppy and like something taken from an episode of Sesame Street, but this is actually one of the biggest days on the Argentine calendar. When the 20 July comes around everyone starts to sweat beneath their collars and start planning for weeks in advance on how to fit their friends in, see them all and not offend anyone. The big day to see your friends is on the actual Dia del Amigo – the 20th – and this is the premium friend slot (reserved only for those that you really, really love), but in a country where people invite on average 500 people to their wedding, you can imagine how many other friends they feel obliged fit into their busy friend week. I have one Mendocino friend who will be celebrating Friend’s Day with a total of 11 friend gatherings spread over 5 days this week… This is not as unusual as you’d think.
There have been many attempts to set up an international Friend’s Day, but no-one (not even Hallmark) quite achieved it. Paraguay was actually the first country to organize a national Friend’s Day and they celebrate it on 30 July. Argentina, just to be different, made theirs 20th July. Why the 20th July you might ask… because that is when we celebrate the Apollo 11 landing. Confused? Yes, me too. But apparently the Dia del Amigo founder, Dr. Enrique Ernesto Febbraro (a professor and general do-gooder) felt that this was a day of international friendship as the moon landing united all mankind. And so he declared it Friend’s Day in 1969 – one small step for man, one giant leap for friendship and drinks promos in bars. It was later legalized as an official day by the Argentine government. So far it is only Uruguay who also celebrate Friend’s Day on 20 July. But you can’t blame Dr Febbraro for not trying – he did send 4000 letters to 100 countries asking them to be part of Friend’s Day too. No-one else really took him up on the offer.
So perhaps if you are reading this from outside Argentina, you could raise a toast with your friends this Friday (maybe it calls for a good Malbec) and give Dr Febbraro a friendly metaphorical pat on the back. If you are however in Argentina, be warned that this Friday night you won’t find a table or stool in any bar or restaurant for love nor money, and the phone lines will have a complete breakdown for the majority of the day.
Feliz Dia del Amigo!
Written for The Vines of Mendoza blog