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Children’s Day or Kodomo no Hi (こどもの日), is a day set aside for the kids. It’s celebrated annually on May 5 and is the last of the Golden Week holidays. It is also a holiday with ancient origins full of traditions. Whether you are celebrating the day with your children or you’re a favorite uncle or auntie to one, here are a few things to know about the national holiday.

A holiday with ancient origins

Before being known as Kodomo no Hi, the day was called Tango no Sekku (端午の節句) and was one of the five annual ceremonies called Gosekku held at the imperial court. Tango no Sekku was celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth moon of the Chinese or lunar calendar. When Japan switched to the Gregorian calendar, the holiday was moved to May 5.

Until 1948, the day was known as Boys’ Day or Feast of Banners and celebrated only boys and recognized fathers. It was the counterpart to Hinamatsuri or Girls Day held on March 3. While Boy’s Day was a national holiday, Hinamatsuri was not recognized as one. The name was eventually changed to Children’s Day. It included both boy and girl children and recognized mothers and fathers, upholding the family quality of unity and celebrating the growth and happiness of children.

To understand the holiday better, let us go back to the Nara and Heian periods (AD 710-794 and AD 794-1185). This was a time when Chinese traditions greatly influenced Japan’s culture. It is said that Gosekku (O-Shogatsu (January 1), Hinamatsuri (March 3), Tanabata (July 7), and Kiku Matsuri (September 9) along with Tango) came from China and sailed across the Sea of Japan alongside green tea and kanji.

However, Gosekku had a negative connotation in China and were known as unlucky …continue reading