Shinto: Celebrate children on Shichi-Go-San

SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 14: America has Mother’s Day and Father’s Day—and Japan has Children’s Day! Today is a celebration for Shichi-Go-San, a Shinto rite of passage for girls aged 3 and 7, and boys aged 3 and 5. (Learn about this custom, and read a personal account, at TokyoWithChildren.)

Long ago, these ages indicated new rights for children—like growing out hair or dressing differently—but today, children are just wished a healthy future. Customs used to include the driving out of evil spirits from children, but today, parents just give thanks for their children’s lives and pray for them. (Wikipedia has details.) Although Shichi-Go-San isn’t officially until tomorrow, many (working) parents will observe it today, since they will be able to spend time with their children. (Guess what? There’s even a shrine in Honolulu that offers children’s services and kimono rentals for Shichi-Go-San! Check out the shrine’s site here.)

The Japanese culture regards odd numbers 3, 5 and 7 as lucky, so for more than 1,000 years, Shinto families have been taking sons and daughters of this age to shrines. Following the shrine visit, parents give their children “longevity candy,” or candy shaped like a stick. Candy and bags represent parents’ wishes for their children’s prosperous and long lives.

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