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Home » 5. Rites and Festivals » Rituals in Daily Life
"Boys' Festival"; Held on the fifth day of the fifth month (May 5) as a celebration for male children, tango was another of the "five seasonal feasts" (gosekku) recognized and established by the Tokugawa Shogunate. It is also generally called the Festival of the Irises. Tan- means "beginning" and -go originally referred to the "horse day" in the old calendar, thus the festival refers to the first horse day of the new calendar year (which began in spring). In China, there were various practices, including the picking of medicinal herbs, outdoor events, and the hanging of mugwort dolls from the entrances of houses in order to exorcise malice. In Japan, the fifth day of the fifth month is noted in Ryō no Gige as one of the yearly seasonal celebration days (sechinichi), and customs similar to those in China appear from quite early. The Shoku-Nihonkōki, chronicling the years from 833 to 850, notes that horse racing and equestrian archery were part of festivities. In particular, the belief that irises ward off evil led to a ritual within the Imperial house whereby iris garlands were worn on this day. Within the court, the custom disappeared during the Kamakura period, even as it spread and flourished among the common people. Beginning in the Edo period, tango came to complement the hina-matsuri Doll Festival on the third day of the third month. As such, tango became seen as a day for boys, and events celebrating valor developed. Events included displaying warrior dolls (gogatsu-ningyō), flying carp-shaped streamers, participating in a type of horse-racing known as kurabe-uma, performing horseback archery (yabusame), and flying kites. Other traditional customs of celebrating this seasonal holiday still practiced today include eating kashiwa-mochi (rice cake wrapped in oak leaves) and taking a bath in water steeped with iris stems (shōbu-yu).

— Yumiyama Tatsuya
"Establishment of a National Learning Institute for the Dissemination of Research on Shinto and Japanese Culture"
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