To those of us with internal calendars based on the four seasons and their transitions, seeing valentines in September is odd. Thankfully, there’s logic behind it. As usual, Colombia takes celebrations one step further with el Mes de Amor y Amistad: Love and Friendship Month. Instead of one day for obligatory dinner dates and highly unseasonal flowers (now most likely imported from Colombia), there’s an entire month dedicated to two of Colombians’ favorite things – universally favorite things, really.

Commercialism obviously jumps on board with special sales and promotions during the month, and so far the most visible tradition is Secret Friends (Amigos Secretos.) It’s Secret Santa – only better because it’s not Christmas! Everyone who wants to “play” finds themselves a group. You pick a name and endulzar the person over the allotted time – literally meaning to give them sweets (dulces) until the end when you give a bigger gift.

The ninth grade class likes to adopt me because I don’t have my own homeroom group, so I played with them last week. I was possibly the only person in the room who legitimately had no idea who anyone else had, and despite having told no one, everyone knew who my Amigo Secreto was. All the kids in the school are so excited about Amigos Secretos, but they are such chismoso (gossipy) little things that I have a feeling it’s just regular Amigos after a day or two.

Aside from Secret Friends, September’s theme is exceptionally appropriate in my life right now. Two of my friends in Bogotá have birthdays a week apart so they celebrated with a chiva last weekend full of 25 of our closest friends in this city. While I’m partial to Quito chivas (and maybe Quito everything), it got the job done.

Something about being a billion miles from home and constant bombardment of equal parts difficulty and amusement really bonds you to the people around you. Also, they’re both from New England so they walk fast and don’t talk to strangers.

At the end of the Love and Friendship Month, I’m fittingly going to see some of my Best Friends in the Entire World when I’m back in the states for Michelle’s wedding, best friends I don’t get to talk to as often as I’d like because of schedules and internetlessness. (Unfortunately I will be far from Connecticut.)

How are you celebrating?