International Day of Friendship: Its Beginnings & How We Celebrate in the Smoky Mountains

“International peace and cooperation.” Seems like a lofty idea and notorious beauty pageant answer from the 1990s. However, the United Nations believed in this grand hope so much that it created and established a long-lasting initiative in 1997 with its final resolution in 1998. In the initiative’s proclamation for the International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence for the Children of the World (2001-2010), it followed the tenants laid out by the International Day of Friendship:

  • Foster a culture of peace through education
  • Promote sustainable economic and social development
  • Promote respect for all human rights
  • Ensure equality among women and men
  • Foster democratic participation
  • Advance understanding, tolerance, and solidarity
  • Support participatory communication and the free flow of information and knowledge
  • Promote international peace and security

With friendship among peoples of colors, cultures, and economic status comes a better understanding, knowledge, tolerance, and compassion for everyone. That’s why The International Day of Friendship lives long past the aforementioned decade. Now, each year on July 30, The International Day of Friendship is meant to promote dialogue for education, learning through experience, and strong communities through understanding.

Throughout the long history of the Great Smoky Mountains, there has been a melting pot of cultural influences and have found a way to preserve each colorful part of their community through art, theater, educational fun, and nature. If you find yourself in a Pigeon Forge, TN Cabin in The Great Smoky Mountains on July 30, use it as a springboard for teaching (and learning) the invaluable lessons that come through experiencing and appreciating cultures outside your own. Below you will find a unique culture that contributes to the community of the Smokies and ways you can explore, experience, and educate yourself and, importantly, our young future leaders!

Original Americans: The Cherokee Indians
On the eastern side of The Great Smoky Mountains National Park lies the Native American city of Cherokee, North Carolina. Rich with Indian culture, Cherokee is filled with art shops, museums, and events you are invited to come and enjoy! Only a few weeks are left in the seasonal live performance of Unto These Hills at the Mountainside Theater, where the whole family can learn and experience the emotional history of the Cherokee Indians at a unique outdoor theater performance. See original pieces of clothing, tools, and art in the Museum of The Cherokee Indian, named “One of the Top 10 Native Sites East of the Mississippi” by Cowboys and Indians Magazine.

Celebrate with An International Movie Night
In many of our cabins, you are treated to fantastic entertaining amenities, like large flatscreen TVs, media rooms, and projector screens, perfect for screening some quality international kids’ films. Pop some popcorn in the microwave or bring your favorite flavored snack back to the cabin from the gourmet popcorn shop, Kapop, in The Island.

A few of my favorite international films for their unique cultural stories and captivating narratives the kids will love are: the critically acclaimed Pixar film on a young Mexican boy with a heart for music, Coco (2017); a documentary well-worth everyone’s time, On The Way to School (2013), follows 4 kids who are simply, but not so simply, on their way to school in the mornings; and My Neighbor Totoro (1993), a tale that holds up over 25 years later of Japanese sisters who discover an interesting creature near their new home.

Dreamy German-Style Architecture
Walking The Village Shoppes in downtown Gatlinburg is like leisurely strolling the streets of an old German town. Take the kids for one of the famous sweet treats at the Donut Friar (been in business since 1969!) before settling onto one of the shaded benches by the beautiful gardens and fountains.

International Eats
Speaking of grub, the Smoky Mountain restaurants are not all mashed potatoes and fried foods. There is a wide array of international options from the Brazilian grill, Gaucho Urbano, to the mouthwatering German sausages of The Island’s Poynor’s Pommes Frites. The kids can try other German dishes at the Cheese Cupboard & Hofbrauhaus, located in The Village Shoppes. Another international eatery that will just blow you away is Smokies Cuban Café where you can indulge in flavorful fried plantains, yucca fries, and an unrivaled Cuban sandwich!

An Artistic Appreciation
While the kids have learned so much about the beauty of cultures outside of their own, it’s also important for them to understand where the roots of American culture began, too! It’s hard for most teens and kids to imagine a life where GPS couldn’t guide you where you needed to go, much less the ambiguity of not knowing exactly where you can pick up your next meal or how to make your own home and furniture.

You can help familiarize your little ones with the lives of the original European settlers through a tour of the preserved historical cabins of Cades Cove and the oldest and largest group of independent artisans in the Great Smoky Arts and Crafts Community! Everything from household goods to clothing, leather goods, and furniture is made through the craftsmanship passed down for generations in the Smoky Mountains along this 3-mile loop of shops. It may even inspire some art in your little ones, compelling them to pick up a hobby and put down their smart devices!

With a newfound appreciation for a life and worldview other than their own, you have successfully celebrated the International Day of Friendship in the Smoky Mountains!

Looking for more ways to play and learn? The whole family is in store for some educational excitement among the elaborate interactive exhibits of WonderWorks!