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Japanese Culture and Traditions: May

 

The topic of May is

"KODOMO NO HI" or "Children's Day"

 

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Although it is called Children's Day on May 5th, it is actually celebrated as the Boys' Festival. (The Girls' Festival is March 3 which is called "Hinamatsuri" or the Dolls Festival. It is also a seasonal festival, called "Tango No Sekku" (Iris Festival), because May 5 marks the beginning of summer on the old lunar calendar. Families with boys put up Koinobori, or carp streamers in their garden. The carp of the "koinobori" appear to be swimming vigorously against the current. Parents are wishing their boys to be a strong man and should face and overcome their difficulties with the same positive spirit. While indoors, they display "Go-gatsu Ningyo" (samurai dolls and their armaments) on a stepped dais with three levels. Children take "shoobu-yu" (a bath with a bunch of floating iris leaves) and eat "kashiwa-mochi" (a rice cake wrapped in an oak leaf) and "chimaki" (a dumpling wrapped in bamboo leaves). Carp, samurai, irises, oak trees, and bamboos all symbolize the earnest wish that their children may grow up to be healthy and robust.