Colombians are going crazy this month - that is to say, crazier than usual, with the advent of the Day of Love and Friendship on 19 September.
The rest of the world celebrates Valentine’s Day on 14 February, but Colombia has never been one to go with the flow. Rather, on the Day of Love and Friendship, citizens go a little loopy sending love letters, exchanging gifts, and indulging in a bout of ‘Amigo Secreto’ (known to the rest of the world as Secret Santa, whereby gifts are anonymously given to one’s designated person along with clues as to one’s identity).
The sociologist and associate professor at National University Victor Reyes Morris explains why gift-giving is such a big part of the consumption of Love (capital L) these days:
“Giving gifts is a cultural tradition. It has had many meanings in history. In Roman times the husband sent assets to his wife to protect her in the event of his death. The gift preceded the act of bartering, which implies a double mark of selfishness and altruism. Love is a kind of exchange of affection symbolized in a material object that is supposed to please those who receive it.”
Professor of Literature Rafael Ortiz bemoans the lack of romanticism of the modern day’s answer to how to demonstrate love. “In the olden days falling in love was much more sublime and tender, because people gave [each other] flowers, serenaded their loved ones, or wrote poems.” Now, with the advent of technology, lovers are using Twitter to play ‘Amigo Secreto’ and sending each other e-cards to keep costs down.
Although days celebrating love have become more and more commercial, their popularity has not waned. Here’s what some Colombians had to say about the event:
Yesenia Serna, 18: “Every year during the month of September I like to go out with my friends and family and spend a special and enjoyable day different from the rest. I don’t think it’s necessary to exchange material things – a nice gesture of friendship is enough.”
Luis Carlos Medina, 22: “I think that the Day of Love and Friendship has become very commercial and no longer has any meaning. I don’t celebrate it as most young people do, because I think that we should celebrate our friends every day.”
Esteban Muñoz, 16: “I share this day with love and care with my family and friends. Also in school we play ‘amigo secreto’ to commemorate this unforgettable day.”
Andres Felipe Arias, Conservative Party candidate: “I make a nice breakfast for my wife and daughter. I like to astound them with a few new recipes because I know that gesture will always surprise them! I hope to receive from them that which they offer every day: an off-guard smile from my daughter and the unconditional love of my wife.”
Hector Heli Rojas, senator: He has chosen a biography of George Washington, the first president of the United States, to give to Colombia’s President Alvaro Uribe. “I chose this book because apparently the President did not understand President Barack Obama when he said that even a man as powerful as Washington was unable to remain in power forever.” And what would he like to receive in return? “I would like to receive a letter from the President in which he denies any possibility of being reelected.”