Sayonara, Cinco de Mayo! Hola, Kodomo no Hi!

May 5.

Here in the USA, we typically “celebrate” a Mexican holiday that we think is about independence and tequila.  I’m not going to explain what’s wrong about our perceptions of Cinco de Mayo, or anything dumb like that.  I’m not a social justice warrior with nothing better to do than complain about a non-issue.  That’s not what my site is about.

Instead, I wanted to share with you the beginning-level knowledge of a Japanese festival that occurs on this day, as well: Kodomo no Hi, which means Children’s Day.

Part of what is known as the Golden Week, Kodomo no Hi is a time of happiness, where we pay extra attention to what makes our children unique and to remind them of how important they are to us.  It was officially decreed as a national holiday in 1948, when the Japanese government decided to adopt the Gregorian calendar (the one we use).

Prior to 1948, Kodomo no Hi was called Tango no Sekku, which means Boy’s Day; it was alternatively known as the Feast of Banners.  Like the Gregorian system, Tango no Sekku was held on the fifth day of the fifth month of the previously-recognized lunar calendar.  Girls had their own day, which was Hinamatsuri (Girl’s Day) and recognized on the third day of the third month.

One of the key traditions for this festival is the flying of koinobori, which are carp-shaped flags/kites.  There is a Magoi (father carp) which is first, followed by a Higoi (mother carp), then the children follow suit.  Why carp, you may ask?  This comes from an ancient Chinese legend that a carp who swims up a stream will become a dragon.

There is also the Kintaro doll, who rides a carp while wearing a kabuto (combat helmet).  The name Kintaro was the childhood name of an iconic samurai from the Heian period (794-1185) known as Minamoto no Kaikou.  It is said that in real life he rode a bear (instead of a traditional horse… or a carp).

Finally, my favorite part of any holiday or festival, the traditional foods.  (YUMMY!!!)  Kodomo no Hi traditionally has two different types of snacks, kashiwa-mochi and chimaki.  Kashiwa-mochi is a rice cake (typically filled with a red bean paste) and wrapped in an oak leaf (which is what a kashiwa is).  Chimaki is somewhat similar; instead of a mochi being wrapped in an oak leaf, this is a sweet rice paste wrapped in a bamboo leaf or an iris.

Well, I guess that’s good enough for now.  This info mostly comes from Wikipedia (mostly because I couldn’t remember most of these names).  Enjoy your day!  Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to get a burrito.