Children’s Day and Symbolism

May 5th is Children’s Day in Japan. Originally, the fifth day of the fifth month was Boy’s Day and March 3rd, or the third day of the third month was Girl’s Day.  Now the national holiday combines all children to celebrate their health, growth and happiness.  But in reality, many still celebrate the days separately.

Many Asian cultures use symbolism. During these festivities, families with boys decorate their homes with a display of ancient warrior dolls and carp streamers.  Both the dolls and carp symbolize strength and success.  Because a carp, or koi in Japanese, swims upstream, it symbolizes strength in Japan.  According to a Chinese folklore, a carp swam upstream and became a dragon.

Therefore, in Asian cultures, if you give a gift of an item that has a carp represented in some shape or form, you are wishing for the child’s growth and success.  In the East these types of symbolic gifts are traditional and are used to remind everyone of their potential without being literal. However, even if the adults mean well, the children have difficulty understanding how the picture of the carp is supposed to help them.  Hopefully, in time they will understand the intentions and this is how we pass down traditions.

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