In Colombia, people don't celebrate Valentine's day on February 14th, but instead, celebrate the whole month of September with the peak during the third weekend. On these days not only romantic couples give each other presents, but friends also get together for drinks or to eat, and one of the most frequent ways to celebrate the month is through gift exchanges, quite common in workplaces and classrooms.
Juan Felipe Beltrán writes on his blog:
Es el mes donde las personas, amigos, parejas y enamorados se reúnen para pasar un mes de felicidad, alegría, armonía y vida. En algunas partes las personas juegan al amigo secreto, el juego trata al principio en que un monitor encargado del juego da una bolsita a cada persona y debe sacar un papelito, en ese papelito hay un nombre de una persona y nombre que te aparezca ese tu amigo secreto, a ninguno de tus amigos le puedes decir quién te tocó por que la gracia del juego es no revelar al amigo, porque si lo revela ya no será amigo secreto, entonces en cada día corresponde dar a tu amigo secreto algo, por ejemplo en un dia corresponde algo salado, el otro algo dulce, el otro algo ácido, el otro la broma y asi sucesivamente hasta que llegue el último dia que es el día del regalo especial. En Colombia es unos de los meses mas esperados y el más especial del año. [Ed. Note.- spelling corrected for clarity. ]
However, not many share this point of view regarding gift exchanges. Emmanuel Ariza writes about why he dislikes this celebration:
Aun hoy me atormentan las pesadillas de mis época de colegial, tener que comprarle un regalo a un “amigo secreto”, que por más que me esmerara, siempre iba a ser poca cosa para él. Todo para que a fin de cuentas, el pelafustán que tendría que darme el regalo a mí, diera cualquier bicoca comprada ahí de afán.
From youtube, creative online video collective Internautismo Crónico, has posted a video where one of their most famous characters, the Zarco (meaning someone with blue eyes), explains why he doesn't play secret friend anymore. The character of el Zarco represents many of the youth that live in marginal areas of the city of Medellin, and speaks with a specific slang called parlache. In the video, he explains his reasons for not playing secret friend.
The reasons El Zarco gives are the following:
- it is a comercial invention and as such, it requires money, which he doesn't have
- he gets picked by the laziest one who doesn't make an effort.
- effort is not rewarded, and gifts given are not similar in value
- picking out names from a bag and getting someone he dislikes is annoying
- getting IOUs instead of candy from lazy secret friends.
- not getting candy but having to give, and seeing everyone else get theirs.
- day of unveiling secret friends is annoying, people holler cat call and expect kissing and hugging.
- he is always single and depressed during love and friendship month but…
- if he is not single, he has to split himself between friends, girlfriends and lovers.
At the end the Zarco proposes making this month a time to spend with friends and loved ones, taking the time to make peace with anyone with whom we don't get along very well, but not a time for these meaningless games… however, he admits that he will be playing this year again.
The game has taken an online tint as well. Secret Follower (or #FollowerSecreto) is the new method by which Colombian twitters are participating with their friends from the popular micro-blogging platform. The methodology is explained in this page and through this tool, people can send their secret follower messages, and anyone can also check out their own present. Click on the menu button and select a twitter user to see the types of gifts they have received: phrases of friendship, images of cute animals or candy, videos, poems and more.
The small gifts are popularly called “endulzadas” which means “to sweeten”, and in this online version they consist of nice pictures to share, links to fun websites or to sites where they can download their specific present. One of the presents is the following example, a short video made with popular internet images:
So happy Month of Friendship and Love to all!
(Image by Yomi955 used according to Creative Commons attribution license)