Just as we have Girls’ Fest Day, we have Boys’ Fest Day in my country of origin. On this date we wish them health, prosperity, and happiness, typically like this (but usually not as elaborate):
Remember a few days ago when I said I was on a mission? Well, this is it… how do you like this goody I brought back with me?
It is supposed to be a miniature collection of all the things a boy needed to go to war in the olden days – a full set of armour in the middle, swords and bow and arrows on each side of it, flags and banners (to indicate if you are an ally or enemy) at the back, things used to lead and give orders to the army in front, and some celebratory foods and drinks at the bottom.
In addition, the display also includes things that are usually placed outside, hung under the eaves – colourful and decorative flags (the fish is carp, believed to swim up waterfalls to become dragons and therefore symbolic of having success climbing up the social ladder), and calamus (coincidentally, they are commonly known as “sweet flags” – their strong scent is believed to fend off misfortune and bring in longevity; as in the photo they are sometimes replaced by iris).
I believe we celebrate Boys’ Fest this way because it started in the era in which military governments ruled. Back in the days, boys were expected to make a name for themselves in battles. So families wished their boys to be strong and courageous to live through combats, show their prowess, and gain more power within the society.
Well, maybe back then, boys’ happiness could not be separated from warfare. Families could only wish for their sons to be strong and courageous so they would live to see another day, and collected as many things as possible to protect them, material and/or symbolic. Boys’ happiness depended on survival, first and foremost.
But, maybe in our days, boys have much more freedom to live their lives as they please. We still wish them to be strong and courageous, but not because that is the only way they can stay alive… because it takes strength and courage to accept that there are different ways to be and find happiness among those who choose differently than themselves.
And maybe we wish them to know that there are so many different ways to show their prowess and gain more power within today’s society than brute physical force and harsh verbal attacks. Some people like political scientist J.S.N., Jr. call it “soft power” – the ability to shape the preferences of others through appeal and attraction, without coercion.
Boys, I wish for your happiness today. I wish that you will find your happiness through insight and empathy in the age of intelligence and globalization. I wish that you will not force yourself, or be forced by others, to pursue your happiness. I wish that you will broaden your horizon to find out what is appealing and attractive about you, so you can be happy knowing that and make others happy being that.
I wish that you will be allowed to be strong and courageous, and of course happy, even without all the armours and weapons.