While the rest of the world celebrates Valentine’s Day every February 14th, the South American nation of Colombia doesn’t. Instead, they have El Dia de Amor y Amistad (The day of love and friendship). So how did this celebration start, and why is it so important to Colombians around the world?
What is El Dia de Amor y Amistad?
El Dia de Amor y Amistad is a celebration in Colombia when lovers and friends share gifts, letters and tokens of appreciation. Unlike Valentine’s day, these gestures aren’t necessarily romantic in nature.
There’s also the long-held tradition of sending amigos secretos (secret friendship letters). Imagine Secret Santa mixed with a secret admirer note and that’s an amigo secreto.
How did El Dia de Amor y Amistad start?
The origin of El Dia de Amor y Amistad dates back to ancient Rome and Pope Gelasius 1 in AD 496. It was once celebrated on the Feast of Saint Valentine’s and indeed fell on February 14th.
It’s unclear when friendship was added to the festivities but in 1969, Colombia moved the date to September at the request of merchants.
The change was supposedly made for two reasons. Firstly, so that local traders could sell more roses and chocolates and thus, help boost the economy. And secondly, to avoid the school season. September was chosen because Colombia didn’t have any other holidays during that month.
When is El Dia de Amor y Amistad celebrated?
On the third Saturday of September. In 2021, El Dia de Amor y Amistad falls on September 18th. In reality, the celebrations for the day of love and friendship have been known to take over the whole month of September.
From the end of August, people start decorating their shops and homes with hearts and balloons in preparation for ‘Colombian Valentine’s Day’.
Another custom in the lead up to El Dia de Amor y Amistad is the endulzada.
Originating from the Spanish verb endulzar (to sweeten), it involves friends and lovers sharing sweet treats in the weeks beforehand.
Why is El Dia de Amor y Amistad such a big deal in Colombia?
Love is universal. For Colombians, however, El Dia de Amor y Amistad is treated with a sense of national pride. That’s because celebrating love and friendship on this day is unique to their country.
In Colombia, El Dia de Amor y Amistad is on par with Christmas and Halloween. No matter what your age or marital status is, El Dia de Amor y Amistad is for everyone in the country.
It’s also an opportunity for those who have left the country to send money or gifts to family in Colombia.
What to get someone for El Dia de Amor y Amistad
As El Dia de Amor y Amistad approaches, it’s time to get your thinking caps on. If you need some inspiration, here’s Azimo’s list of gift ideas:
- Chocolates – because everyone loves chocolates.
- A Wayuu mochila bag – a hand-woven, brightly coloured handbag typical of the indigenous Wayuu people.
- Bon Bon Bum – a popular brand of Colombian lollipops with chewing gum in the middle.
- An emerald – the country’s most precious gemstone and a gift that can be used to customise jewellery.
- Send cash to Colombia instantly with Azimo – a simple cash gift can make a big difference.
How will Colombians celebrate this year?
In addition to sharing gifts, ‘El Dia’ is also a day for friends and family to spend time together. From Bogota to Medellin, Colombia’s socially-distanced streets will be filled with the sound of celebrations.
If you can’t make it home, apps like Zoom and WhatsApp can help bring your loved ones closer. Alternatively, read Azimo’s guide to sending money to Colombia. Learn how to get the best overall deal, including how to top-up a loved one’s smartphone from overseas.