7-5-3 or Shichi-Go-San is a festival celebrated on the 15th of November each year. It is the day Japanese parents celebrate the growth and health of their children as they turn three, five or seven years of age. It is a type of rite of passage for children.
This unique festival originated in the Heian Period (794 – 1185) of Japan when court nobles would celebrate the passage of their children into middle childhood. East Asian Astrology deems odd numbers are very lucky and that is why ages 3, 5 and 7 are celebrated.
Later Samurai also started to celebrate this festival and added a few customs to the festival. Children, from age 3 were allowed to grow their hair (Up to age 3 children had to have their heads shaved), boys, aged 5, could start to wear the hakama (a traditional garment only for men and girls, aged 7, could now start to replace the simple chords of their kimono dresses with an obi, a type of sash. By the time of the Edo Period (1603 – 1868), commoners have adapted these traditions as well. This was a day to visit a shrine to drive out evil spirits and to wish for a long healthy life.
In modern times, things have changed considerably, the hair tradition is gone now, and children’s are not shaved anymore. They do still dress in kimono, many for the fists time and then go and visit shrines, some children do not even wear kimonos but western-style clothes. Also of course, these days’ photos are taken. Parents also buy chitose-ame (thousand year candy) for the children. It is a candy shaped like a stick and usually is in a bag decorated with cranes and turtles that by tradition symbolize a long life in Japan. These candied gifts are a way to express the wishes and hopes of the parents for a healthy and prosperous long life for their children.
It is a nice little festival and although it is not a holiday, it is an event that is very important for the Japanese family structure.
If you wish to read more on this fascinating festival, please follow the link: http://goo.gl/35oJCk
Here is also a nice little informative video on the purification ritual at the shrine: http://goo.gl/eHevXU