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Thursday, November 21, 2013

Google Celebrates Children's Day - But Not In Japan

I don't know how many of you noticed, but Google put out a new doodle for November 20, 2013 - what you see above, celebrating Children's Day.

I recall as a child asking my parents why there's a Mother's Day and a Father's Day but there's no 'kid's day', to which my very intelligent father replied: "Every day is kid's day."

He became more intelligent after I became a father... and I understood.

Since I was never deprived the necessities of life, had my own dogs, a cat, aquariums, comic books, toys, sports opportunities, musical education, bikes, clothing, and food damn near on demand, who the hell was I to counter. I sure as hell didn't have to work for any of those things - they were given freely (freely is not a word my parent's would have used - knowing how much money they spent spoiling me). Hell... I didn't even have to do particularly well at school - I do believe I failed Grade 12 English, and here I am a writer and editor in my day job! Suck on that guidance counselors!

Anyhow... my parents were correct... in a true and good society, there is no need to specifically honor kids with a special day, because ever day should be special.

Now... don't give me that bull crap about not all kid's being treated as well as I was... I know that... but how is having day - a specific day that no one has heard of except via Google Doodle - going to change or elevate children? It won't. Maybe it's a start, but it's official been Children's Day here in Canada since 1993 - and I hadn't heard of it until today.

Anyhow... just so we are all on the same page here (this one)... Japan does indeed celebrate Children's Day... just not on November 20.

Known as Kodomo no hi (子供の日), Children's Day is celebrated on May 5 as a National Holiday. It's something that has been celebrated in Japan since 1948... probably as one of those feel good things Japan's government tried to do after World War II: "It is regrettable that we made your dad become a suicide kamikaze pilot - Happy Children's Day!"

Of course... Japan was being ruled by the Allied forces - specifically the US of A at that time: "We're kind of sorry we nuked two of your cities back into the Stone Age - Happy Children's Day!"

Anyhow... sarcasm aside... Children's Day was actually celebrated twice prior to 1948... on May 5 for the boys, and on March 5 for the girls.

The March 3rd date was known as the Doll Festival day, when Japanese folk would take the time to decorate their homes with plum blossoms, and Heian-jidai wooden dolls, and spend the day drinking Amazake, a sweet low-alcohol or zero-alcohol type of fermented rice drink...

I would assume that the decorating of one's Japanese abode with plum blossoms was probably easier to do in the more southern climes of Japan, what with it being effing cold everywhere else.

The Japanese Doll Festival Day is known as Hina-matsuri, and is celebrated by the household setting up a multi-level platform covered with a red carpet - upon which is placed ornamental dolls known as hina-ningyo that depict the Emperor, Empress, court attendants and musicians dressed in traditional costumes of the Heian-jidai (Heian era) of 794 AD to 1185 AD... this was an era that was noticed for its art, poetry and literature... high points... though even I assume that Japan has shown some progress there in the past 1200 years...

Prior to 1948, the May 5th date was tango-no-sekku - boy's day. Boys would get to fly carp streamers, display manly samurai dolls (action figures!) and eat chimaki, a traditional sticky rice treat wrapped in a leaf but filled with something delicious... it was like a dumpling.

Carp streamers - what's up with the carp? Well... from the story I was told, the carp, when it grows up, becomes a mighty dragon... as such... the Japanese youth are still carp...  

Anyhow... back in 1948 when Japan's Children's Day was formalized for May 5 and only May 5, feminists and traditionalists had no problem with the May 5 date, but also wanted the March 5 date to be a national holiday.

"Two national holidays? For kid's? But we need to rebuild our economy?!"

So... they eliminated March 3 as a holiday...

... not really...

Japan is a country built on tradition. It embraces change with the speed of a rampaging glacier...

Sure, May 5 is a national Children's Day holiday... but even though no longer afforded the same respect with a day off, March 5 is still Doll Festival Day... and is celebrated by young Japanese girls... who also celebrate May 5 as Children's Day.

So... even though the girl's got shafted in not having their sexist day being a national holiday... they still get to celebrate their own girl's day... a day that is probably not universally celebrated by the Japanese boys.

Japanese girls... you lost and you won.

Cheers,
Andrew Joseph

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