Marie Ebersolt

4th May, 2023

On 5 May, we celebrate the happiness of boys. More broadly today, we celebrate the health of children, boys and girls. This day is a holiday dedicated to their existence.

Tango no sekku corresponds to the month of the horse (tango), the month of May which corresponds to the change of season (sekku) according to the Chinese calendar. It is one of the festivals of the five seasons during which the changing climate is accompanied by rituals and symbols. Introduced in the Nara period in the 8th century, it marks the beginning of summer. The fragrant rush, an aquatic herbaceous plant, was offered in aristocratic circles for its energizing and protective virtues. It was consumed in the form of soup or herbal tea, or ground into a powder, and was used to treat ailments according to herbal medicine. Successive emperors had it made into decorative items to give to members of the court. Bunches of rush or mugwort leaves were hung from the eaves of houses to protect them from bad luck.

Later, in the Kamakura period from the end of the 12th century, the samurai introduced this festivity. Poking fun at the chobu homonymy between "rush" and "knightly spirit" and the resemblance between the plant and the sword, the great families dedicated the festivity to boys in the same way as the peach festival for girls. Elements of armour, symbolising the protection of the boys, adorned the interiors of the houses and sewn cloths in the shape of koi fish were hoisted in the gardens. Gradually, these rituals spread throughout the Japanese people.

Since 1948, when the law on public holidays was enacted, Tango no sekku has been renamed Kodomono hi, or Children's Day. May 5 is a national day when the Japanese celebrate all children, wishing them joy, health and happiness. Children are involved in their own celebration, for example by folding origami in the shape of a samurai helmet.

Like them, try your hand at this paper art by following the instructions in the photo below. Not having adequate paper is no excuse! Take an A4 sheet of paper that you can get your hands on, join the width and length edge to edge and cut out the excess paper. Unfold and you will have a square piece of paper that will turn into a beautiful creation, fold after fold!

Marie Ebersolt