“Children's Day" is celebrated all over the world and, in Japan May 5 is the Children's Day, which is also called “Tango no Sekku”.
We will explain a habit called “Tango no Sekku”, which is one of our traditional events in Japan.
What is “Tango no Sekku”?
It is one of the five seasonal festivals called “Sekku” in Japan.
There are 5 seasonal festivals in Japan throughout the year, which are the festival of seven spring flowers on January 7 (Jinjitsu no Sekku), the festival of peach on March 3 (Joumi no Sekku), the festival of calamus on May 5 (Tango no Sekku), the festival of weaver on July 7 (Tanabata no Sekku), and the festival of chrysanthemum on September 9 (Chouyou no Sekku).
“Tango no Sekku” on May 5 is the day for children when people celebrate the births of the children and their healthy growth.
It is said to have originated from a festival called “Sekku” introduced from China and it has been a tradition for a long time since the Nara period.
Eventually, “Tango no Sekku” was formed as a unique Japanese culture and has been handed down to the present time through the manners of taking a bath filled with calamus and eating an auspicious food called “Kashiwa mochi”.
“Tango no Sekku” itself has a very long history but Children's Day does not have a long history as it was defined in 1948, which is not so long ago.
Based on a habit that “Tango no Sekku” is the day when people celebrate their healthy growth, May 5 was defined as a national holiday when people respect the character of children, to care for their well-being, and to be grateful to their mothers.
How do people celebrate on this day?
On this day, every family having children raise the carp streamers called “Koinobori” hoisted high in the sky. The biggest stream is a black carp, the second is a red carp and the smallest one is a child carp.
And there is also a habit to take a bath with calamus on this day.
In ancient China, they had an event using calamus to ward off evil spirits in May when disasters and illnesses increase, because the strong scent of calamus removes such evil spirits. This culture was delivered to Japan and incorporated into court ceremonies during the Heian period. On the day of “Tango no Sekku”, people let their children take a bath with calamus to ward off the evil spirits.
Also, there is another theory that people wished for the children’s health by using calamus in a superstitious way as calamus has the same sound as “Match” and “Militarism” in the Edo period.
The food eaten on “Tango no Sekku”.
It is a habit to eat “Chimaki” on this day. This is also a culture that originated in ancient China, and has a root that people let children eat “Chimaki” which is a symbol of loyalty wishing to be a loyal child. Such a Chinese tradition was spread in the western Japan first and nationwide in later days.
There is also another habit to eat “Kashiwa Mochi” (rice cakes wrapped in oak leaves) in addition to “Chimaki”.
It is said that such a culture of eating “Kashiwa Mochi” was born in the Edo period. People resembled the oak tree to their children as an auspicious thing since it never loses its leaves in winter, but falls when the new leaves start to sprout. And they wished to have their successor like the oak tree. Wishing their children to grow healthy, such a habit of eating “Kashiwa Mochi” was born.
Oak trees are grown mainly in the eastern Japan. Because of that, this habit was spread mainly in the eastern Japan.
“Tango no Sekku”, having a long history, is a traditional festival in Japan. There is no difference in parents’ feelings for their children in any countries in the world. So, how about celebrating your children’s growth in a Japanese manner, wishing the healthy growth of your children?