During the Heian period (794-1185,) the child mortality rate was high in Japan. During this time period, members of the aristocratic class and the samurai class began having celebrations for children who lived to be three, five, and seven, which, being odd numbers, were considered lucky ages. By the Edo Period (1603-1868,) commoners had shichi-go-san celebrations for their children as well.
Three, five, and seven are all milestone ages for Japanese children. During the samurai era, children had their heads shaved until they reached the age of three. A child's first shichi-go-san after his or third birthday marked the first time he or she could grow hair and was referred to as kamioki, which means "putting on hair." A boy could start wearing hakama, formal Japanese pants, at age five, and his first shichi-go-san after his fifth birthday was called hakamagi-no-gi. Upon turning seven, a girl could tie her kimono with obi (a traditional sash) rather than strings, and her first shichi-go-san was called obitoki-no-gi.
Kamioki is no longer observed, and some families dress their children in Western-style suits and dresses rather than having hakamagi-no-gi and obitoki-no-gi, but shichi-go-san is still a very meaningful celebration for the Japanese. Some children have photo sessions taken for their shichi-go-san. Girls get their hair and makeup done. On the big day, the children's families visit the shrine and the kan-nushi (Shinto priest) blesses the children and recites a long prayer to a Shinto god asking for protection of the children. The family members participate in the prayer ceremony as well. After the ceremony, the priest gives the children omamori, which are good luck charms, according to iromegane.com.
|Children on their way to the shrine for shichi-go-san: credits to english-ch.com|
Birthday shoutouts to Mattie, Cy, and Caitlin