Contest: O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!

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Labor Day has passed, which can only mean one thing for department stores -- it's time to start planning the Hannuramakwanzmas (or, if you prefer, Chrismukkah) holiday displays. (You think we're kidding? Remember, Harrod's was practically celebrating Christmas in July.) Of course, here at mental_floss, we've had holidays on the brain for the last two months; our new issue features 10 Religious Holidays Not Yet Exploited by Hallmark. After the jump, you'll find one of my personal favorites, but before that, here's our new contest:

There's probably some day on the calendar that's not already taken up with an established holiday. Let's remedy that. Tell us your proposal for a new holiday -- who does it honor? How is it celebrated? What day is it and why? Bonus points, as always, for entries that are grounded in some sort of historical or scientific fact.

The winner gets Cocktail Party Cheat Sheets -- because, hey, what better way is there to celebrate your new holiday than with a party? This week started a day late, so we'll give you some extra time -- the deadline is Sunday night at 9 p.m. eastern.

Shinto: Shichigosan

The name Shichigosan literally translates to "seven five three," but (despite our best guesses) this holiday isn't a celebration of football plays or ATM codes. Rather, the numbers reference the ages of the festival's guests of honor—children ages 7, 5, and 3. Shichigosan, which falls on the weekend closest to November 15, serves as a kind of rite of passage holiday for the Shinto faithful, and it's popular in Japan, where Shintoism—a belief system that values nature, ritual purity, and the worship of spirits called kami—is one of the dominant religions.

According to Japanese numerology, odd numbers are considered lucky, which is why these particular numbers are celebrated. Traditionally, boys age 5 and girls ages 3 and 7 dress up in special clothes and visit a Shinto temple to receive blessings from the priest. And while it's hard not to love a good blessing, Shinto children likely enjoy Shichigosan more for the treats. At the temple, priests give each child two packages. The first has rice to be mixed into the evening's dinner; the second contains cakes shaped like various Shinto symbols. But the fun doesn't stop there. Parents also throw parties and give their kids gifts in celebration of the special day, and elders hand out "thousand-year candies," which carry wishes for a long life.

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September 5, 2006 - 1:07pm
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