The tradition of celebrating Friendship Day began in 1935 when the US Congress decided to dedicate a day in the honor of friends. Though it is not known exactly what were the reasons that went into the making of this day, the retrospection of the world scenario of those times can lead us to an understanding. With the devastating effects of the First World War still 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.
Hence, the US Congress decided to designate the first Sunday of the month of August as Friendship Day and with a formal proclamation in 1935, officially declared the occasion a holiday dedicated in the honour of friends and friendship. Since then, celebration of National Friendship Day became an annual event. The lofty idea of honoring the beautiful relationship of friendship caught on with the people, particularly the youngsters all over the country, and in no time Friendship Day became a highly popular festival.
But the success of this wonderful occasion was not to be limited to the US alone. With time, several other countries followed suit in adopting the tradition of dedicating a day to the cause of friendship. The beautiful idea of having a day in the honor of friends was joyously taken over by several other countries across the world. With more and more nations joining in the celebrations, Friendship Day soon became International Friendship Day.
Today, Friendship Day is enthusiastically celebrated every year by many countries. The occasion is observed on the first Sunday of every August. The traditional celebrations include meeting with friends and exchanging of cards, flowers and gifts. Many social and cultural organizations also celebrate Friendship Day by hosting programs and get togethers. Special performances by rock bands are also organized in countries like the US to enhance the jubilations.
In 1997, the United Nations named Winnie - the Pooh, the famous cartoon character as the world's Ambassador of Friendship.
It is interesting to note how some associations observe Friendship Day with different customs, by giving the festival different names and holding it in times unlike that of the actual festival.
For example, National Friendship Day is held on the first Sunday in August; Women's Friendship Day is on the third Sunday in August; the third week of May is the Old Friends, New Friends Week and the whole of February is designated as the International Friendship Month.
These days, Friendship Day is celebrated with a lot of fanfare and great expenses. Just as in US and several other countries, the festival has been greatly commercialized.
Days before the festival, card and gift companies launch an extensive campaign to lure people into buying cards and gift items for their friends. Companies indulge in aggressive marketing to target youngsters, the main celebrators of festivals as these, and entice them into purchasing expensive articles for their pals. Restaurateurs too offer special discounts to make the most of the time. This marketing strategy has been severely criticized by many people and is a subject of debate every year. Many feel that such rampant commercialization has marred the very concept of Friendship Day and has turned it into a mere formality. Many on the other hand think that greater hype and hoopla around the occasion has helped to generate awareness about Friendship Day festival which was till recently a low-key affair (compared to occasions as "Mother's Day" and "Father's Day") and thus promote friendship and brotherhood.
The popular customs of Friendship Day includes handing over roses, especially the pink and yellow ones. The day is observed with great exhilaration and merriment, with friends throwing parties, gorging on lip-smacking dishes and drinking hard (be it at home or at restaurants that offer special discounts for this occasion).
A highly popular thing associated with the day is the well-known Friendship Band - the modern day token of friendship that friends gift to one another to form an everlasting bond. Friendship bands are favorite items for youngsters and are available in stores all over the country. Girls go in for friendship bracelets instead of the conventional friendship wristbands. Friendship Poems and Friendship Day Gifts are exchanged between best friends to renew the bond of friendship and express gratitude and love for each other. These are new ways of celebration of this day that the GenX has invented.
Since its inception in 1935, Friendship Day and Friendship Day celebrations have come a long way. But however much the ways of celebration have changed, the basic idea behind the occasion remains the same. Friendship Day remains the time when you acknowledge your friends' contribution in your life, express love for them, cherish their presence in your life and pay them a tribute.
Today, Friendship Day is being celebrated around the globe, across diverse cultures and social segments.