Japanese Childrens’ Day – Shichi Go San

by ebazaar 28 August 2010 One Comment

The world has children’s day, however, Japan has been celebrating their little ones since long time ago.

Shichi Go San FestivalShichi Go San is a festival to celebrate the children in Japan. It is the coming of children of age seven, five and three. The word ‘Shichi Go San’ itself directly translates to seven-five-three. Shichi Go San is not a national holiday, however, on this day girls of age three and seven, boys age three and five are celebrated. Their parents will have the children dress in elaborated children kimono with traditional obi (for girls) and hakama (for boys) and they will visit a Shinto Shrine to pray for their good health and growth. Shichi Go San falls on November 15 but if that day is a working day, the parents will bring their children to celebrate and visit the nearest shrine on the closest weekend.

History of Shichi Go San

This festival indicates the rite of passage for these young children into middle childhood. It was originated during the Heian Period and only practiced by court nobles and people of higher rank in the society. Odd numbers are considered lucky in Japanese numerology, that is why the age three, five and seven were chosen in the first place. During this period there were no exact date of the celebration, it depends on the lucky date set by the court monk at that time. It was during the Kamakura Period that the practice was set to the fifteenth of the eleventh month. By the time of the Edo Period, the practice spread amongst the common people and it was not until the Meiji Period when this custom evolved thoroughly among all Japanese.

Traditional Children’s Day in Japan

On this festival, aside from visiting the shrines children will be given lots of candies. The common ones are the long candies called Chitose Ame, or literally means ‘Thousand year candy’. Chitose ame candies are decorated with turtles and cranes shapes given to children in small decorative bags. The candies are also wrapped in a thin clear rice paper, which looks like plastic and are edible. Why turtles and cranes? Well, both of these creatures symbolize longevity in the Japanese custom. On Shichi Go San too, children will have lots of their photos taken and that is why this day too is well-known as a day to take pictures of children.

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