Last weekend was the annual kite festival in our town. The previous year we had snow on the ground, so it was nice that this year we had warm temperatures and no snow in sight!
I used to love kite flying when I was a child; it is an activity that always takes me back to my childhood, as well as remind me of the time when our daughter flew her first kite on a beach in Normandy, France. Her Dad had to hold on to her, as the wind was strong, and she was only 3 or 4 years old.
Whilst the majority of participants at the festival were younger kids with their parents, I did spot quite a few people in their early twenties, as well as some older folk without any kids having a great time.
Kites have been in use for more than 2,000 years and originated in China; although the exact date is not known.
Legend suggests that a Chinese farmer tied a string to his hat to keep it from blowing away in a strong wind, and so the first kite was born.
The earliest written account that mentions kite flying dates back to 2,000 B.C. The Chinese General Han Hsin, from the Han Dynasty, was attacking a city and used a kite to measure how far his army would have to tunnel to reach past the defenses. Having calculated the distance his troops reached the inside of the city, surprised the enemy, and were victorious.
Traders spread the use of kites to Korea and across Asia to India. Each area/country developed a very distinctive style of kite and each had their own very unique cultural purpose for flying kites.
Kites arrived in Japan around the 7th century and became very popular, especially during the Edo period (1603 – 1868), as for the first time kite flying was allowed for people below the samurai class. In fact, it became so popular that the Edo government tried to discourage this pastime as “too many people became unmindful of their work”; needless to say their efforts were unsuccessful.
Kites were used for all sorts of applications during its long history. In Micronesia leaf kites were used to carry bait over the water to catch fish; there were kite duels in Polynesia, which still exist to this day.
The impact of kites in Europe was not instant; Marco Polo brought the kite to Europe at the end of the 13th century, but it wasn’t until the 18th and 19th centuries that kites truly made an impact in Europe.
They were used as vehicles and tools for scientific research and men like Benjamin Franklin used their knowledge of kite flying to learn more about the wind and weather. Kites contributed to the development of the airplane thanks to experiments by Sir George Caley, Samuel Langley, Lawrence Hargrave, Alexander Graham Bell, and the Wright Brothers.
During both world wars armies used kites for enemy observation, signaling, target practice and aircraft recognition at sea, as well as helping lost sailors at sea to be found.
Once the airplane was firmly established kites were used for recreational purposes. The last 50 years has seen a renewed interest in kiting, and with the availability of new materials came new kite designs.
Kites come in all shapes and sizes, as was evident at our annual kite festival. Gone are the days when every kite was the same shape with a slight variant in colour!
So, grab a kite and discover the inner child in yourself again!