Boys’ Day a tradition

May 5 is another opportunity for all of Maui to enjoy one of the cultural contributions to the island’s calendar of special days.

In Japan, and for the island’s many residents – regardless of their ethnic background – May 5 is Tangu No Sekku, or Boys’ Day, a way of celebrating the healthy growth and development of boys. Girls are the guests of their brothers on this occasion, just as boys are guests of their sisters on Girls’ Day, March 3.

Traveling around the island, it is possible to see gaily colored koi-nobori, streamers in the shape of carp. The carp is a symbol of Boys’ Day because it is an energetic and powerful fish that can fight its way up swift-running streams. Because of its strength and determination, the carp stands for courage and the ability to attain high goals.

The origins of the May 5 celebration are lost in the mists of time. It may trace to an ancient rural Chinese custom that became popular during the days of the Empress Regnant Suiko (593-629 A.D.). The celebration may also date back to the unification of the country by Ashikaga Shogun in the 14th century.

In Hawaii, Boys’ Day has been a part of the cultural scene for more than 100 years. Some of the trappings, such as the carp banners and the recognition of male offspring, have been adopted by other ethnic groups with roots as deep in island soil as those of Japanese ancestry.

Boys’ Day is also another excuse to have parties and enjoy each other’s company – not to mention the food that always goes with Maui parties – just like another May 5 observance, Cinco de Mayo, which commemorates the independence of Mexico, although the official Mexico independence day is marked on Sept. 16. The first Mexicans to come to the islands were the vaqueros who taught Hawaiians how to handle horses and cattle. The vaqueros also brought the guitar to the islands. The Hawaiian version of the word Spanish (Espanol) gave rise to the name for cowboy, paniolo.

Celebrating old-country days such as Boys’ Day in Hawaii is a way of preserving bits of family history for the future, and one of those bits was the sharing of holidays and events with everyone. It’s that sharing that makes events like Boys’ Day an island tradition.

(A version of this editorial has appeared previously in The Maui News.)

* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.