One of my favorite parts about Japanese cultures by far is the festivals and holidays and this week actually had one of the biggest ones! March 3rd is Hinamatsuri, also known as Girl’s Day! Hinamatsuri has some of the most beautiful traditions, so stay tuned to learn more!
What is Hinamatsuri?
As I said, Hinamatsuri is also known as Girl’s Day or Doll’s Day. As the name implies, Hinamatsuri is a celebration for young girls and is used by their family to pray for their health and prosperity and traditionally, a good marriage in the future. There’s a number of customs that go along with it, but the most recognizable is the display of fancy dolls representing a Heian Period wedding or an imperial court.
Girl’s Day is held on the third of March since it’s considered an auspicious date. You might notice that other duplicating dates in odd months are also key festivals, such as Tanabata, the star festival held on the seventh of July and Oshōgatsu aka New Year’s on January 1st. These festivals all are a part of the go-sekku, five seasonal festivals that were traditionally held by the Japanese Imperial Court. At the time, Hinamatsuri was also known as Momo no Sekku (Peach Festival) as peach blossoms bloomed during this time when the Lunar calendar was still being used. (This is no longer true with the shift to the Gregorian calendar, but peach blossoms are still very important for their symbolic meaning).
Originally a toy, Hina dolls are the staple decoration for Hinamatsuri celebrations. They are intricately crafted dolls that are displayed on a set of risers called a Hinadan. Hinadans displayed in homes usually are between three and five layers depending on the families budgets as Hina dolls can be very expensive! Very intricate (and costly sets) can have up to seven tiers. Many families now a days are actually opting for just a single tier with the main pair of dolls because of the cost and how time consuming it can be to set up and take down.
The dolls live in storage for most of the year until a few days before Hinamatsuri, where girls and their mothers begin setting them up. Tradition states that the dolls should be promptly put away the day after Hinamatsuri or the girl may have a late wedding, but many families in modern times opt to leave them on display for the month of March.
The top tier of the hinadan displays the two main dolls, the Odairisama and the Ohinasama, sometimes called the Lord and Princess or the Emperor and Empress respectively. Below them are the Sannin Kanjo, the three court ladies who wait on the couple and the third tier consists of the Goninn Bayashi, five musicians there for entertainment. The fourth displays two ministers, the fifth has three helpers or guards, and the last two are an assortment of objects, the sixth being objects for in-palace use and the seventh for out-of-palace use. The whole set of dolls and accessories are known as Hinakazari.
Many families obtain at least the first pair of dolls before the girl’s first birthday. Dolls are also often passed down as heirlooms as well! Families typically stop putting the dolls on display sometime around when the daughter turns 10 years old.
In the days before Hinamatsuri, girls often have parties with their friends and what’s a party without food! Here are some of the common foods eaten around Girl’s Day.
Hina-Arare is a colorful variant of arare rice crackers, which look like little balls or pellets. They typically come in either soy sauce or sugar flavors.
Ushiojiru, or clam soup, is commonly eaten because clam shells represents unity between a couple.
A three tiered mochi cake, hishi mochi typically contains layers of pink, white and green, although this can change depending on the region.
A rice dished topped with sashimi(raw fish), chirashizushi is a delicious entree that is also vibrant and colorful to fit the theme.
While Hinamatsuri is mainly a family celebration, there are many large festivals that occur across the country where you couls view wonderful displays of hina dolls and maybe even try some of the food! Hinamatsuri is also depicted in many anime and movies, so keep an eye out the next time you’re watching!