lucky (debatable, I know) kids in Korea and Japan celebrate today. Well, technically, because of the time shift, 14 hours ago on their May 5th. It’s an unsung holiday overshadowed by Cinco de Mayo in the States; what a pity.
In South Korea, 어린이날 means no school nation-wide and a break from studies. Instead, children go to amusement parks (or zoos, the movies, etc.) with their families, eat their favorite foods, play games, and get money or presents from their relatives. Why the special treatment? Back in the early twentieth century, a certain author, 방정환, wanted to recognize the investment in the future – children. So he decided to create a day to honor and respect them. How nice~~. On the other hand, it’s common knowledge how vigorous the education system is there; I wonder if the fun extends into older kids, with all the studying they do. Sure, public school may be closed, but what about cram schools? Such a workaholic culture…
Evidently, the same holiday is not shared by North Korea. Communist that it is, it has 국제 아동절 (International Children’s Day) on June 1st, along with a number of other sickle-and-hammer countries. Looks like conformity is greater than ethnic fraternity.
As for Japan, this day was traditionally the boys’ half (端午の節句) of two Children’s Days. Girl’s Day (雛祭り) was traditionally on the 3rd day of the 3rd month. In 1948, こどもの日 became the unisex version. I suspect it’s not too different from S. Korea’s holiday, seeing as they both celebrate for the same/similar meaning.