Have you ever thought to yourself on Father’s Day or Mother’s Day: why isn’t there a children’s day?
Well, as it turns out, you just have to travel to Japan to be officially celebrated as a child. On May 5th every year, Japan celebrates Children’s Day as a public holiday and just a couple months before that, they celebrate Girls’ Day.
Children’s Day started officially in 1948, but before that, May 5th was Boys’ Day and March 3rd was Girl’s Day. During Girl’s Day, women and girls placed flowers on the roof to purify the home and spent the day resting their bodies. Boys’ Day drew influence from the Kamakura period (1185-1333 AD), and became a chance to celebrate the samurai. On Boys’ Day, they also engaged in a new activity meant to ward off evil spirits: horseback archery.
Today, Japan celebrates what was formerly Boys’ Day as Children’s Day (Kodomo-no-hi) on May 5th and Girls’ Day (Hina Matsuri) on March 3rd. This name change came after World War II, when people wanted to boost morale and include and celebrate all children for their happiness and personalities. With these two spring holidays come many traditions with colorful decorations and extravagant festivals.
Traditionally, during Girls’ Day, Japanese families would display dolls in their homes to give thanks for the health of their female children. In modern times, most Japanese families don’t have the space for a large display of dolls, so businesses have kept the tradition going with their department store displays.
Girls’ Day has many other traditions, such as doll floating ceremonies in regions with rivers to float dolls down, and eating special foods like pink, white, and green mochi cake. And just a couple short months later, girls can be celebrated again, this time alongside boys, with Children’s Day.
Children’s Day borrows traditions originally practiced during Boys’ Day. Though its name technically denotes the celebration of boys and girls, the traditions that take place on this day mostly center around boys, which is why there was a need for Girls’ Day. During Children’s Day, Japanese families string up carp streamers to symbolize courage and determination, which are traits desirable in sons. In Tokyo, you can even see carp streamers hung from the famous Tokyo Tower!
Both days are wonderful chances to celebrate Japanese children and their health and happiness, so book that early ticket to Japan to celebrate your inner child and take part in the fun traditions of the springtime celebrations next year.