May 5, 2015

In Japan, today is Children’s Day, Kodomo no Hi. The day is a national holiday in Japan, established in 1948 to respect children’s personalities and celebrate their happiness. The day is part of a week-long holiday in Japan called Golden Week, when it seems that almost everyone in Japan is on the move, traveling the country in search of the most spectacular cherry blossoms, and picnicking with friends and family beneath the blooms to celebrate spring. Originally, though, when Japan observed the lunar calendar, the 5th day of the 5th month was Boys’ Day. Traditionally, families with boys displayed carp banners, or koinobori, outside their homes to celebrate their sons, the carps symbolizing success because, according to legend these fish swim upstream and transform into dragons. Japanese girls have their own special day too, on the 3rd day of the 3rd month (now March 3rd), a day called Hinamatsuri, when dolls are displayed on tiered shelves covered in red cloth. Although this day is still very festive in Japan today, it has not been designated a national holiday, like Boys’ Day, perhaps because cherry blossoms aren’t in bloom yet in March…(I’m trying not to be cynical here.)

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Now, May 5th is also Cinco de Mayo here in the United States and in Mexico, commemorating the Mexican army’s victory over French forces in the Battle of Puebla in 1862. Many more Americans are probably celebrating this day than Japanese Children’s Day, if for no other reason than they enjoy Mexican food and margaritas. But, even though I have lived in Southern California for more than 18 years now, I haven’t felt a strong connection to this particular holiday, either because I haven’t studied Mexican history and culture enough or because I’m not a big drinker. My cultural radar is still more attuned to Japanese customs, and I have a son to celebrate, of course. So, this afternoon, I dug around in Theo’s closet and pulled out our koinobori, given to us by a Japanese friend and hung it up in our dining room to symbolically mark the occasion. Unfortunately, Theo had a lot of homework this evening, so it was hard to “celebrate his happiness,” but I tried not to get too irritated with him at least when he made a big fuss about one of his assignments. I decided to celebrate children’s happiness more generally with my Giveaway by taking 5 cute, silly and funny children’s books to the Little Free Library outside Theo’s school. I’d noticed it was empty today and wanted to remedy that, as it looks a bit unfulfilled when it’s bookless. So I snuck out of the house while David was helping Theo with the last of his homework and dropped off the books. Since we’re usually late in the morning, the Little Free Library may be empty again by the time we get there. But that will be ok because it will mean that somewhere in the schoolyard, a child may be looking through one the books and laughing.

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