Shichi-go-san is a
festival celebrated by parents on the fifteenth of November in Japan, to
mark the growth of their children as they turn three, five and seven years
Shichi-go-san literally means �seven, five and three�. These ages are
considered critical in a child�s life. Particularly, at the age of seven,
a young girl celebrates wearing her first obi, while at the age of five a
young boy celebrates wearing his first hakama pants in public. The age of
three marks the first time whereby both boys and girls are allowed to let
their hair grow.
The festival is said to have started in the Heian period (794-1185) where
the nobles celebrated the growth of their children on a lucky day in
November. The festival was subsequently set on the fifteenth of that month
during the Kamakura period (1185-1333). Shogun Tsunayoshi Tokugawa was
said to be celebrating the growth of his son, Tokumatsu, on that day.
By the Edo period (1603-1868), this practice spread to commoners, who
began visiting shrines to have prayers offered by priests. The shichi-go-san
custom followed today evolved in the Meiji era (1868-1912). November 15
was chosen for this celebration because it was considered one of the most
auspicious days of the year in the Japanese almanac. Since the day is not
a national holiday, most families pay their shichi-go-san respects on the
weekend just before or after the day.
Today, parents celebrate shichi-go-san as their boys turn three and five
years of age, and as their girls turn three and seven. The boys don on
haori jackets and hakama trousers, while the girls would wear a special
ceremonial kimono when making their shichi-go-san visit. In recent years
though, an increasing number of children are wearing Western-style suits
Following the visit to the shrine, parents buy chitose-ame (�thousand
years� candy) for their children. The candy is shaped like a stick and
comes in a bag that carries illustrations of cranes and turtles - two
animals that traditionally symbolise longevity in Japan. The candy and the
bag are both expressions of parents' wish that their children lead long
and prosperous lives.