2006-11-15

Happy 7-5-3 Day.

November 15 is 七五三 Shichi-go-san, a day of prayer for the healthy growth of young children. Shichi-go-san literally means seven, five, three; in most regions around the country, boys and girls aged three, boys aged five, and girls aged seven visit a Shinto shrine (神道神社) with their parents. Most girls wear 着物 kimono when making their Shichi-go-san visit, while boys don 羽織 haori jackets and 袴 hakama trousers. In recent years, though, an increasing number of children are wearing Western-style dresses and suits.

Following the visit, parents generally buy 千歳飴 (chitose-ame =longevity candy) for the children. The candy is shaped like a stick and comes in a bag that carries illustrations of cranes 鶴 (ツル=tsuru) and turtles 亀 (カメ=kame)--two animals that are symbols of long life. Chitose literally means a thousand years and is used to denote very long periods of time. The candy and the bag are both expressions of parents' wish that their children lead long, prosperous lives.

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