Kodomo no Hi - Children's Day (Japan)

Kodomo no Hi (Children's Day) falls on May 5th and is one of the most popular national holidays in Japan. Kodomo no Hi actually started long time ago as Tango no Sekku (Boy's Day), a holiday celebrating the male children. After World War II it was changed to celebrate the health and growth of all children, in hopes of uplifting the spirits of Japan. Many of the traditions and decorations related to Children's Day still reflect those of Boy's Day.

To bring good fortune to the boys in home, koinobori (colorful carp streamers) are flown outside of houses to wish them luck for the future. Koinobori are believed to be strong, spirited fish that are known for their determination in fighting up streams and through powerful waterfalls. Families also display kabuto (samurai helmet) and samurai dolls representing Kintaro, Momotaro and others that symbolize courage.
Another tradition is the offering of kashiwa-mochi, a rice cake stuffed with bean paste and wrapped in an oak leaf, which is also a symbol of strength. Iris flowers also bloom during this time, and are placed in the home to ward off evil.
An ancient practice of bathing with flag plant leaves is also observed on this day; it is said to have medicinal values. It is also important on this day to make offerings of Japanese confections: rice dumplings wrapped in bamboo leaves and rice cakes wrapped in oak leaves.