Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Shichi-Go-San

15th November is a special day in Japan. It is the day of Shichi Go San. Literally, Shichi Go San means 7-5-3.

Shichi Go San is a traditional rite of passage for Japanese boys and girls. The uniqueness of this festival is that this day is celebrated for 3 and 7 year old girls and 5 year old boys. It marks the passage of children into their middle childhood and as per Japanese numerology these odd ages are lucky for children.
This festival originated in the Heian period and has evolved over the centuries. In the ancient days boys had to shave their heads till they attained age 5 after which they could grow hair. For girls it meant changing the pattern of kimono or the cords which they tied the kimono with. The samurai class observed Shichi Go San till the Meiji period when it was adopted by common people. 
These days, children of this age are dressed in kimonos and along with parents they visit the Shrine and pray for good luck and health and success in their future.
Parents give children a special candy called “ Chitose Ame” which literally means “ Thousand Year Candy”. It is red and white in colour and is long and thin and is wrapped in edible rice paper film. The bag carrying this candy has a crane and turtle printed on it. Both crane and turtle are considered as symbols of long life in Japan.

Shichi Go San is not a holiday and as such these days it is common to see people observing it on a weekend around this time of the year.

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