Children's Day

What: A national holiday celebrating boys and girls.

When: May 5th

Kodomo no hi

Also called “Flying Carp Day,” Children’s day is an old holiday that has undergone many changes in the last few years. It currently is a national holiday honoring boys and girl, celebrated on May 5th. On this day it is common to see koinobori, or carp wind-socks, flying almost everywhere you look. The carp streamers are hung by parents hoping their children will be successful, since the carp symbolize worldly success. Families with sons will also set out warrior dolls, which symbolize strength and bravery. Kashiwa mochi (rice cakes with sweet bean paste) and chimaki (rice cakes wrapped in bamboo leaves) are often eaten on Children’s Day.

History

The most significant change for this holiday is its change from Boy’s Day to Children’s Day. Formerly known as Tango no sekku, or “the first fifth,” it was a holiday for boys, while Hinamatsuri was the designated holiday for girls. This has recently changed and now Children’s Day is for both boys and girls.

There are several different ideas as to the origin of Children’s Day, though none is widely accepted. One such theory is comes from the story of a sea battle against the Mongolians, where Prince Hayanaga prayed at the Fuji-mori shrine in Kakitsubata, and because he prayed on the fifth day of the fifth month when the irises were in bloom (since the iris is a good omen), a giant storm destroyed the Mongolians and Japan was saved. For this reason, irises are common in foods and decorating for this holiday.

This holiday was traditionally observed on the fifth day of the fifth month of the lunar calendar, but is now officially celebrated on the fifth of May. The date has stayed the same during the change from Boy’s Day to Children’s Day.