May 5 Children’s Day Celebrations
National Children’s Days are observed on various days throughout the year in countries all around the world. The day is devoted to celebrating the health and happiness of all children. Japan and South Korea celebrate Children’s Day on May 5, the fifth day of the fifth month.
Kodomo No Hi is a national holiday in Japan. Colorful streamers called koinobori are popular symbols of the celebration and are hung on poles outside of homes. In Japanese, koi means carp (a type of fish symbolizing strength and perseverance) and nobori means “to rise up.”
A typical pattern for setting up koinobori is to have a colorful streamer representing the family crest at the top, then the biggest koinobori (black) representing the father, then the next biggest one (red) representing the mother, and then one for each child decreasing in size to the smallest child. Make a koinobori.
Inside the house are displays of gogatsu-ningyo (samurai warrior figurines) and kabuto (samurai helmets) to inspire strong character traits, such as strength and courage. Shobu (iris flowers) are displayed around the house to keep bad spirits away, and taking a bath with floating iris leaves (syobuyu) is a tradition dating back to the 12th century. Popular foods for the celebration include chimaki (dumplings wrapped in bamboo leaves) and kashiwa-mochi (rice cakes with sweet bean paste and wrapped in oak leaves).
Also taking place on Children’s Day is a Kids’ Olympics at the national Kasumigaoka Stadium in Tokyo, with thousands of children and their parents participating in races.
Urini nal is a national holiday in South Korea. Celebrations include parades, pageants, parties, picnics, and Tae Kwon Do demonstrations. Children dress in traditional clothing and go out with family to museums, parks, and movies – with many places offering free admission for the special day. Make a South Korean craft, such as a handheld sogo drum, a lotus lantern, or a Sam Taeguk fan.
Rice is an important part of Korean celebrations. Other traditional foods are mandoo, a meat and vegetable dumpling; kujulpan, strips of meat and vegetables wrapped inside of pancakes; sollongtang, beef soup with rice and noodles (above); and songpyeon, pine-flavored rice cakes shaped like half-moons (above).
Children’s Day in Other Countries
Other national Children’s Day celebrations throughout the year include: January 9 (Thailand); February 13 (Myanmar); March 6 (New Zealand); April 4 (China); April 23 (Turkey); April 30 (Mexico); May 8 (Spain); May 27 (Nigeria); June 1 (Albania, Cambodia, Ecuador, Lebanon, Mongolia, Portugal, Russia, Tajikistan, Ukraine, and more); June 12 (United States); July 23 (Indonesia); August 21 (Argentina); September 9 (Costa Rica); October 5 (Chile); November 20 (Canada, France, Greece, Israel, Spain, Sweden, and more); December 25 (Congo, Chad).
Find out how these, or any other, countries celebrate their national Children’s Day. What’s similar? What’s different?