with a Children’s Day exhibition and brilliant azaleas!
Children’s Dayこどもの日 (Kodomo Matsuri)
For centuries, Japan celebrated Boys’ Day and Girls’ day separately, but in 1948 these two festivals were combined into one event on May 5th, now called Children’s Day. This holiday celebrates the importance of children by honoring them with activities that emphasize or symbolize good health and happiness. In return, children express their gratitude for the love and care they receive from their parents and grandparents.
Boys’ Day端午の節 (Tango no Sekku)
Boys’ Day has historically been celebrated on May 5th. This festival encourages boys to be strong and brave. Throughout late April and early May, Japanese homes are decorated with huge, brightly-colored koinobori, or carp-shaped windsocks, made of paper or cloth which fill with wind and appear to swim through the air, symbolizing a wish for their sons to grow strong like the carp that swim against the current. These carp sets are flown above the roofs of houses with sons, with the biggest (black) koinobori for the father, next biggest (red) for the mother, and ranging down to the smallest carp for the youngest son. The carp symbolizes health and determination because the Japanese believe that the carp has the strength and tenacity to overcome obstacles. These traits encourage boys to reach high-set goals enabling them to surpass life’s difficulties and become successful.
The origins of the Boys’ Day festival is unknown, but was celebrated as early as the 7th century, while kite flying traces its origins to the 12th century when warriors flew streamers in celebration of victory. Today, young boys receive samurai warrior dolls and replicas as a gift from family members. Families decorate their houses with these miniature pieces (usually a helmet, suit of armor, sword, bow, and arrow.) Silk banners with the family crest are also displayed.
Kashiwa mochi (mochi rice cakes wrapped in oak leaves and filled with red beans jam) and chimaki (sweet rice paste wrapped in an iris or bamboo leaf) are traditionally served on this day. The iris has become a symbol of Boys’ Day because the flower petals resemble a samurai’s sword.
Girls’ Day雛祭り (Hina Matsuri)
Girls’ Day is traditionally celebrated on March 3rd. Families with young daughters celebrate this holiday at home with gifts of hina dolls. The hina dolls are a set of 15-20 dolls that resemble the Emperor’s court. In addition to the Emperor and Empress, there are dolls representing many roles of the court such as musicians, ladies-in-waiting, and warrior guards. The dolls are placed on a tiered platform of five to seven steps lined with a red cloth, with the Emperor and Empress on the top step. These dolls are often given to young girls by their grandmother and are considered heirlooms that are passed down from generation to generation.
Hishi mochi, diamond-shaped rice cakes, are traditionally made on Girls’ Day. A pair of these, usually colored pink, yellow, and/or green, and made of three or five layers, is displayed with the hina dolls tiered stand.
The peach blossom is the symbol of Girls’ Day. Peach blossoms symbolize a happy marriage as well as gentility, composure, and tranquility.
Azaleasつつじ (tsutsuji) in Shofuso’s Garden
Shofuso’s garden is so full of Hino white and Wissahickon red azaleas that in late April and early May, the pond-side is aflame with their flowers. During this season, after the cherry blossoms have fallen, visitors flock to the Japanese House to view this colorful spectacle.