A sibling is a gender-neutral word for a relative that shares at least one parent. A male sibling is a brother and a female sibling is a sister. A person with no siblings is an only child. Given that most siblings are brought up together, there is usually a very strong emotional bond between them and the relationship between siblings is unique in itself. The word sibling was reintroduced in 1903 in an article in Biometrika, as a translation for the German Geschwister, having not been used since 1425.
With siblings, we can be ourselves. They know all our secrets and maybe some secrets we don’t even acknowledge to ourselves. Siblings shape the person you become because growing up with people of different attitudes, characters and idiosyncrasies, you learn to get along with people instinctively. And of course, growing up with siblings, you have to learn to communicate and express yourself so your voice is heard. If your sibling is of the opposite sex, then you have a live example of how that sex thinks and works. This will stand you in great stead in life. Having a sibling is one of the best parts of life, you have a built-in companion for life. As Dr Terri Apter, the author of ‘The Sister Knot’ so rightly put it: siblings may not always agree with you or even like you, but they elicit a great interest in you that is difficult to replicate in any other relationship.
Since siblings have such a huge impact on our lives, should there not be a festival or even a day to celebrate this bond? In India, the beautiful festival of Raksha Bandhan celebrates the love and bonds between a brother and sister. But this festival, the oldest festival in the category, only celebrates the bonds between siblings of the opposite gender. What about siblings who are of the same gender?
That’s when Siblings Day comes into the picture. Siblings Day is a holiday celebrated annually in some parts of the United States and Canada on April 10 and as Brothers and Sisters Day on May 31 in Europe. Unlike Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, it is not federally recognised in the United States, though the Siblings Day Foundation is working to change this.
Siblings Day was conceived by Claudia Evart to honour the memory of her brother and sister, who died at an early age. The Siblings Day Foundation was incorporated in 1997 and achieved non-profit status in 1999. In Europe, was launched in 2014 by the European Large Families Confederation or ELFAC to celebrate siblings’ bonds and relationships. The May 31 feast spread in different ways in the European countries where ELFAC is present. In Portugal, Dia dos Irmãos has become very popular. ELFAC has associate members in several European countries including Austria, Cyprus, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Portugal, Romania, Serbia and Switzerland.
So if you haven’t already done so, take some time to spend time with your sibling/s and enjoy the day, going back to a time when life was uncomplicated and all you needed was the love of your siblings. Happy Siblings Day!