Thursday, May 05, 2011

Kodomo no Hi : Children's Day

A while ago, I had written about Hina Matsuri, the Girl's Festival. While the Girl's festival is celebrated in early March, boy's get their own festival a good 2 months later.

"Tango no sekku" or Boys' festival, is celebrated on 5th of May each year. On this day, families pray for the wellbeing and good health of the boys in the family. During this festival, dolls called "Gogatsu Ningyo" are displayed. 
These dolls resemble healthy young boys. Sometimes these dolls resemble young samurai warriors. 
At times, miniature samurai protective headgear and suit of armour are also displayed. 
This is because this custom originated in the samurai class. Nowadays, people display the samurai suit of armour because they want their sons to grow up strong like the samurai warriors.

Till few years back, it was a common sight to see big carp shaped streamers made of cloth or paper, known as "Koi Nobori" flying outside homes where children lived.
It is believed that carp are strong fish and as per Chinese legend, they turn to dragons when they swim up whitewater rapids. 
Usually these streamers are in pairs or groups of 3 or more. The colours of the carp have a significance too: Blue is for the children, Red is for mother and Black is for father. It was more common for households having young boys to hang these as a wish for the healthy growth of their boys.

Since these are big in size and also costly, now a days it is not so common to hang these in city home. But you can still see some flying at some public places in the cities or shopping malls. 

Since the year 1948, Japan declared 5th of May as the Children's day and it is now called as "Kodomo no Hi". It is a national holiday now. Actually it is the last day of the Golden Week holiday, one of Japan's biggest holiday seasons. 

Like all Japanese festivals, Children's Day also has its' special cuisine. The special dish is called "Kashiwa mochi". It is a rice cake with a sweet bean paste stuffed inside. It is wrapped inside a leaf called Kashiwa. The leaf has a strong taste and most people prefer to discard the leaf, while some can eat the leaf too.   

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