Shichigosan: The Japanese Festival for 7, 5, and 3 Year Olds

5208447286_c6a6e9dfb2_zThe Japaneses Shichigosan festival celebrates children who are 7,5, and 3.  The word, Shichigosan is literally a combination of three numbers in Japanese; shichi is seven, go is five and san is three. This makes it pretty easy to remember what this festival is about!

The Shichigosan festival, thought to be over 400 years old, is held every year on November 15. It’s celebrated for girls who are 7 and 3, and boys who are 5 years. This is a happy occasion for the parents, who visit a shrine to give thanks to the gods for the health of their children to have reached this age.

For the kids, it’s also exciting. For most, it’s a special occasion where they’re dressed up in traditional or formal clothing.

This involves getting the hair done in an up do for the girls with all sorts of fancy ornaments in the hair. It is also an event of first experiences.  It was said that for the 3 year old girl, the festival marked the first time she is allowed to wear her hair up. For the boys, it is their first experience to put on the traditional hakama and for the 7 year old girl, she wears an obi with her kimono for the first time.

As you can imagine, to dress them in traditional clothing is an expensive and special occasion.  So, the parents go all out and savor this memory.  Many have professional photos taken to celebrate this colorful festival.  It’s also a reminder to be grateful for the health and happiness of their little ones.

At the shrines, the children are given blessings and candy.

That’s what I remember; the long colorful paper bag that included 2 sticks of candy, one white and one red, called Chitose ame. 千歳飴. The characters literally mean a thousand year candy. Red and white in color, long in form, they symbolizes long life and auspiciousness.

Now, the long paper bags that holds the candy often depict images of the crane and tortoise, both symbols for long life, as they are believed to live for 1,000 and 10,000 years respectively.
Other  images often include the bamboo and pine. The bamboo is fast growing and strong and the pine is evergreen, so they represent strength and longevity.

This is a wonderful time to visit the shrines to enjoy the colorful and happy celebration!  If you’re not in Japan, why not dress your children up and give thanks for their health.  Western clothes is totally accepted too.  I found these vintage photos of Shichigosan that are so adorable on flickr!

Happy Shichigosan!

16057969390_14a9a5186e_z  shichigosan

photos:  Einharch, Vintage Japan-esque

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