Have you ever heard of a holiday that revolves around dolls? If not, then you need to know about Hinamatsuri – the annual Japanese festival also known as Girls’ Day. The name Hinamatsuri is a combination of the word hina, which refers to the special dolls involved in the celebration, and matsuri, the Japanese word for a holiday or festival. This festival is deeply rooted in Japanese culture, and celebrates the health and happiness of young girls. In addition to showcasing intricately crafted dolls, Hinamatsuri features delicious food and beautiful traditions that have been passed down through generations, making it a truly unique and special occasion.
When is Hinamatsuri?
Hinamatsuri takes place every year on March 3rd. It is one of five seasonal festivals in Japan, known as sekku, which have been celebrated for centuries. Originally known as momo no sekku, or “the peach festival,” Hinamatsuri historically marked the arrival of spring after a long winter. The festival was named after peach blossoms, which typically start to bloom in early March in Japan.
What are the origins of Hinamatsuri?
Hinamatsuri has a rich history that dates back over 1000 years to Japan’s Heian period (794 to 1185). During this time, people celebrated the March sekku with ceremonies and special dishes. The tradition of making simple paper dolls, called hitogata, began to emerge as a way to ward off evil spirits. Families created paper dolls and set them afloat in rivers, hoping that the dolls would carry away any bad luck and evil spirits, leaving their children safe. Over time, the tradition evolved into the modern practice of the festival we know today. During the Edo period (1603 to 1867), the tradition of displaying the dolls on a special altar at home became popular.
What does Hinamatsuri celebrate?
The Hinamatsuri festival is a cherished opportunity to celebrate the health and happiness of young girls, especially those under the age of 10. It provides an occasion for families to pray for the prosperity and healthy growth of their daughters. As the name Girls’ Day suggests, the festival also honors femininity in general, with a focus on the unique and wonderful qualities that young girls bring to the world.
How do people celebrate Hinamatsuri?
During Hinamatsuri, many Japanese families display a beautiful set of traditional dolls called hina-ningyo on a platform called a hina-dan. This elaborate display is usually set up from the first day of spring until mid-March, and is believed to bring good luck and happiness to the household. Each doll in the display represents an aspect of ancient Japan’s imperial court, with the emperor and empress taking the central position at the top of the hina-dan. Other dolls, such as attendants, musicians, and guards, are arranged on lower tiers to create a scene of celebration and festivity. The hina-dan display is also an expression of hope for a girl’s good health and happy future, particularly her successful marriage.
When do girls begin to celebrate Hinamatsuri?
Celebrations start from a young age, with the first Hinamatsuri being an especially important celebration for young girls. Even babies under the age of one are dressed in beautiful kimonos and presented with new or handed-down hina dolls by their mothers. Parents and grandparents offer blessings to celebrate the girls’ growth and good health. The celebration continues as the girls grow older, with parties often held in the days leading up to March 3rd to mark the occasion.
What kinds of food do people eat on Hinamatsuri?
With a special celebration comes special food! One popular treat is hina-arare, sugary rice crackers that come in pastel colors and are only served during this time of the year. Families can also enjoy amazake, a non-alcoholic sake that is perfect for the festival’s family-oriented nature. For a more substantial meal, try chirashizushi, translated in English as “scattered sushi.” It’s a traditional Japanese dish made of sushi rice decorated with seafood, vegetables, and thin egg omelettes. And to complete the celebration, serve hishi-mochi, a three-layered rhomboid-shaped mochi that represents fertility. The white, pink, and green colors symbolize snow, peach blossoms, and the coming of spring, respectively.
What events take place during Hinamatsuri?
Outside of the altars in family homes, Hinamatsuri festivals take place on a large scale throughout the country. The Katsuura Big Hina Matsuri festival in the town of Katsuura, running from late February to early March, is a magnificent display of 30,000 dolls exhibited in various locations around the town. You can get a taste of traditional Hinamatsuri foods at the various stalls scattered throughout the town. In Tokyo, the famous Meguro Gajoen building decorates its Hundred-Steps Staircase with vintage Hinamatsuri dolls, creating a magical atmosphere. Finally, at the Edo Nagashi Bina Festival in Tokyo’s Asakusa district, people partake in the ancient tradition of sending paper dolls down a river adding an enchanting touch to the celebration.