Known as Kodomo No Hi, the Japanese Children’s Day, falls on the 5th of May every year and is a time to celebrate the children in every household in the country. Originally, Kodomo No Hi was Boy's Day, known as Tango No Sekku in Japanese. Today, it is a day dedicated to the celebration of health and growth of all children.
Believed to have been first celebrated during the reign of Empress Suiko (593-628 A.D), Tango No Sekku was originally celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth month of the lunar calendar.
This festival still celebrated today in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Macau, Singapore, Vietnam, and Korea. In China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore and Macau, this festival is known as Duan Wu festival, or more commonly known as the dragon boat festival.
In Vietnam, the festival is known as Tet Doan Ngo (also known as Tet giet sau bo - Killing inner insects Festival), in Korea, the festival is known as the Dano festival.
The origins of the holiday are unclear, but it is believed that Tango No Sekku marks the beginning of summer. The word "Sekku" marks a seasonal festival, and there are fives seasonal festivals that are celebrated every year.
For a long time, Tango No Sekku is known as Boy's Day and Girl's Day "Hinamatsuri" was celebrated on March 3rd, but in 1948, the government made it into a national holiday for the celebration of happiness of all children and to express gratitude to all mothers. It was also renamed: Kodomo no Hi "Children’s Day".
Because Kodomo no Hi was originally Boy's day, many of the celebratory rituals, decorations and food symbolism had to do with celebrating the health, strength and growth of little boys in families.
Traditionally, families displayed colorful carp streamers on a pole outside their homes. In the countryside of Japan during this time of festivities, it is a beautiful sight to see all the carp streamers swimming in the wind, against the brilliant blue sky. The carp streamers are symbols for growth and strength and denote a wish for the boys in the family to grow up strong. Typically, a household would display several carp streamers. The black carp represents the father in the family, the red carp, the mother, and smaller carps beneath these two represents the number of boys in the household.
Legend has it, that a carp swam upstream and became a dragon, as a result, the carp or koi is a symbol of strength.
Beyond displaying carp streamers outdoors, many families also display ancient traditional warrior dolls or warrior helmets. These dolls are called "Go Getsu Ningyo", which literally means May dolls. These dolls similarly symbolize strength that the family wishes for the boys in the family. Many families also display the "Golden Boy Doll", a doll of ancient Japanese warrior hero Kintaro, who was a boy with superhuman strength who grew up to become a famous warrior. The display of these dolls reflects the family's wish that their boys grow up strong and brave.
During Kodomo no Hi, sweets and delicacies are served and enjoyed. Most specifically, Kashiwa mochi, which is a rice cake filled with red bean paste that is wrapped in an oak leaf. "Kashiwa" stands for oak leaf in Japanese and "mochi" is the name of the traditional Japanese rice cake. Because the oak leaf is known to repel insects, it is associated with strength and toughness.
Finally, many families also display a species of the iris flower named Acorus calamus, known as "shobu" in Japanese, which is a homonym with the Japanese word that means "match or a fight" between opponents. These iris flowers are displayed under the eaves of homes, and also added to bath water. Adults also add the petal of shobu iris to their sake for enjoyment during this festival.
A popular legend that is told and celebrated during Kodomo no Hi is that of "Kintaro". "Kin" stands for gold and "Taro" is a common name for little boys. Kintarois often translated as "the Golden Boy". Kintarois a folk legend of a child with superhuman strength, but was based on an actual historical figure. During the Heian period, in the 10th century, there lived a famous retainer named Sakata Kintoki who worked for the samurai Minamoto no Yoritmitsu. Kintoki was known for his amazing abilities as a warrior and over time his fame and name grew, the stories surrounding his growth as a child became a folk legend. "Kintaro" was the childhood name of Sakata Kintoki.
Legend has it, that Kintarowas raised near Mount Kintoki by a mountain witch named Yamauba (another version tells that he was raised by his mother, Princess Yaegiri, who was daughter of a wealthy man), and that even as a toddler, he had supernatural strength, described as plump, ruddy and active, Kintaro wore nothing but a red bib with the word "Kin" on it.
Raised in the wild, he had unbelievable strength and was able to smash rocks, uproot trees, bend trunks and even speak to animals who served as his messengers. In his adventures, Kintaro helped woodcutter fell trees with his strength, sumo wrestled a bear and defeated demons.
When Kintaro became an adult, he met the samurai Minamoto no Yoritmitsu who was impressed by Kintar's amazing strength and recruited him to become his personal retainer. Kintaro changed his name to Sakata Kintoki and eventually became the chief of Yoritmit's four braves.
Celebrate Kodomo no hi
Here at Mrs. Lin’s kitchen, we wish all children a happy Kodomo no Hi! Browse our Asian doll selection to decorate your homes on Kodomo no Hi with intricately crafted Samurai and Imperial warrior dolls or whip up a special Kodomo no Hi meal and serving guests with adorable Boys Day Kintaroand Carp chopsticks rest Boys Day Kintaroand Carp chopsticks rest. Or enjoy a lovely warm cup of sake with added shobu iris petals in one of our delicate sake sets . However you choose to celebrate this fun festival, we hope that you and family have a great Kodomo no Hi!
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