April 8, 2010

Hana Matsuri – Flower Festival – Japan

This holiday celebrates the birthday of Buddha. Those who visit a shrine on this day bring offerings of fresh flowers (cherry blossoms), so this is why it is called a flower festival.

Customs vary widely from place to place. In many towns, people wear kimonos and line up on the decorated streets to watch parades with floats. One float is always a white elephant that carries a small image of a baby Buddha. (There are no elephants in Japan, but there were in India, where Buddha spent most of his life.)

Some children pour tea on the baby statue t
o represent the story that it rained tea on the day that Buddha was born.

Check out some of the colorful pictures of this festival at the Muza-Chan site.

This is the traditional date on which Japanese people celebrate Buddha's bi
rthday. In actual fact, Prince Siddhartha Gautama (who became “the Buddha”) was surely not born on April 8, 566 B.C. (In similar fashion, December 25, 1 A.D., was probably not the actual birth date of Jesus of Nazareth.) The rest of East Asia uses the Chinese calendar to set the date for his birthday, with this year the date falling on May 21.

Color a picture
of some Japanese children in their traditional kimonos. Some kids will wear these kinds of robes to the festival today! Or how about coloring this picture of cherry blossoms?

For instructions on making a traditional Japanese painting of cherry blossoms, look at The Crafty Classroom. You can substitute materials you have on hand for a less authentic, but still lovely, painting.

Here is a puzzle that shows the various islands of Japan.

There are a million things to read and do and explore on Kids Web Japan.

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