I would think it would be a little bit hard to be a boy growing up in an era where the advancements of women are continually lauded but any success by men is just par-for-the-course and probably unfairly earned. Imagine seeing “Girls Rule” t-shirts all around while the slightest bit of enthusiasm over your own gender is met with disapproval and downright disdain. That’s why I am such a huge fan of the Japanese holiday, “Boys Day,” which is still celebrated every May 5th here in Hawaii, although it is slowly morphing into the more politically correct, “Children’s Day.” After finishing up a rather dismal series on “Industrial Waste,” it felt good to give my boys a chance to celebrate being boys. While our Boys Day celebrations have taken different shapes every year (click here and here for examples) the following 5 elements are absolutely essential: comrades, competition, Japanese cuisine, candy and carp. The carp comes first.
This fish is revered for it’s energy and power which enable it to battle it’s way upstream and thus symbolizes spirit, strength, courage and determination to overcome all obstacles. These aren’t exactly the traits most cultivated in our boys today. Traditionally each family hangs out one giant black carp-shaped wind sock for the Dad and then a smaller, brightly colored one for each boy in the house. Since the big ones cost about $75 here, we just hang out our five small small ones, which sadly aren’t nearly as brightly colored as they used to be. After paddling practice at 5:05 (since 5 is the special number for Boys Day, I thought the party should be at 5:55 but they weren’t about to wait an extra fifty minutes), the boys met a couple of their buddies by the pool where they did some Japanese calligraphy. Sei’s mom is a very talented artist and is always ready to share her finer skills with a bunch of rowdy boys.
Then we played a couple games which included a rather violent Japanese version of “Paper, Rock, Scissors,” and diving for nickles in the pool.
After an amazing feast of roll-your-own sushi it was time for another competition, this one involving racing to pick up tiny beans with chopsticks. Our Japanese friends were kind enough to use their left hands but I was still so proud of my winning score that it is now posted on our fridge. I guess the boys aren’t the only ones with a competitive spirit in this house :).
By the way, there is also a Girls Day celebrated on March 3 and whether you have boys or girls I think these are great holidays to honor the unique God-given design and characteristics of each. Happy Koinobori, everyone and remember to let your boys be boys!