3, 5 and 7

By: Reiko Nishioka, Director of EducationOn November 15th, 3 and 5 year-old boys and 3 and 7 year-old girls pay a visit to a shrine or temple to pray to grow up to a healthy adulthood.  In addition, November weekends are crowded with formally dressed parents and children wearing formal kimono or Western clothes which for boys are handsome suits and for girls are beautiful dresses. You will know children are 3, 5 or 7 years old because they carry a long paper bag called chitiseame.  This candy bag has either a crane or a tortoise design, both symbols of longevity, or images of pine, bamboo or plum that are auspicious designs. The special candy is long and colored red and white.

In November, the numbers 7, 5 and 3 bring a special meaning. In Japanese, they are pronounced shichi, go, san. 

I know you are wondering why the ages 7, 5 and 3 are celebrated. In the past, a child’s hair was left to grow long at age 3; and at age 5 for boys and age 7 for a girls, children started to wear adult style kimono. In those days the infant mortality rate was so high that these occasions gave parents an opportunity to celebrate their children growing up to be healthy adults.  Of course, even today, children are happy to wear a beautiful kimono for this occasion. 

Are there any similar traditions in your culture?

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