Shinto: Celebrate children on Shichi-Go-San

A YOUNG CHILD in a kimono. Photo in public domain.TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 15: Get that camera ready—children are the center of attention today in Shintoism, and for many 3-year-olds, 5-year-olds and 7-year-olds, today is their first time donning a kimono and visiting a shrine in traditional attire. For more than 1,000 years, Shinto followers in Japan have marked Shichi-Go-San as an auspicious day, used to celebrate the passage of young children into middle childhood. Through the years, commoners began to mark this passage as much as those in the imperial class, and today, many parents take their children to shrines in hopes of driving out evil spirits and wishing them a long, prosperous life. Of course, dressing children in a kimono for the first time is also a photo opportunity in this era! Since this is not an official national holiday, families can recognize Shichi-Go-San today—or the weekend before or after the actual date. (Not familiar with Shintoism? You might be surprised to learn more, including the Shinto emphasis on green” ways of living! Learn more from a Loyola University student.)

The imperial family of Japan recently celebrated its own version of Shichi-Go-San, as Prince Hisahito marked his fifth birthday in September. Two ceremonies, both imperial versions of Shichi-Go-San, were held for the first time since 1970—when Hisahito’s father, Prince Akishino, was honored. (Read the article in The Mainichi Daily News.)

Imperial or not, all eligible children receive “thousand year candy” today—long, thin, red-and-white sweet treats—to symbolize growth and longevity. (Wikipedia has details.) Even the bag the candy is presented in is clad with cranes and turtles, both of which represent long life in the Japanese culture.

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