Japan is known for their numerous festivals that occur all throughout the year. There are 5 significant annual festivals which are called gosekku (五節句), or the five seasonal festivals in English. These five seasonal festivals are held from the first day of the first month, and counting by odd numbers to the ninth day of the ninth month. The festivals include New Years on January 1, Hina Matsuri on March 3, Children’s Day on May 5, Tanabata on July 7, and the Chrysanthemum Festival on September 9.
Hina Matsuri, one of these main Japanese festivals, is annually held on March 3. It is also called the Doll Festival or Girl’s Day, the primary purpose of the festival being to celebrate young girls in a family as well as early spring. Today, we will introduce the Hina Matsuri and how the Japanese celebrate the festival.
A Brief History
Hina Matsuri (雛祭り) is celebrated on March 3rd. The name “Hina Matsuri” comes from the word “hina” meaning “doll” and “matsuri” meaning “festival.” Hina Matsuri has another less-common name as well, which is “Momo no Sekku,” or “Peach Festival.” It started in the Edo Period (1603 – 1868), and was originally held to celebrate the blooming of the peach trees in the early spring.
The dolls, on the other hand, were derived from the traditional paper toys called “Hitogata,” and were transformed into the dolls that are displayed in households to remove the evil spirits from the house and bring good luck. Additionally, the blooming of the peach trees also represents the growth of female children, while displaying the dolls inside the house brings charms and good health to girls. The exhibition of the hina dolls also has the purpose of giving gratitude to gods for giving female children to a family.
Traditions and Celebrations
According to Japanese traditions, Japanese families will bring out dolls dressed in the full traditional attire of the aristocrats of the Heian Period (794 – 1185), and display them on a stair style platform from the middle of February until March 3rd. The hina dolls are dressed in different styles and placed in their proper location according to their titles. The first ladder is for two male and female dolls that represent the emperor and the empress, with a golden screen placed behind them. The second to the bottom stair consists of servants in different ranks, including three ladies-in-waiting to serve the emperor, five male musicians, guards, children with other ornaments including food trays, an orange tree, a peach tree, and other props. The stairs have 5 to 7 levels, depending on the household. There is also a tradition to release the paper dolls in rivers when Hina Matsuri comes to the end in order to carry away any misfortune.
These dolls were originally used during the celebrations in the Edo Period to ward off evil spirits, and it is still a tradition to offer treats to the dolls.
Since the hina dolls are usually expensive, each household generally pass them down for generations for the celebrations. Some households may pass the set of dolls to the daughters when she gets married to prepare for the next generation. Meanwhile, other households may display smaller sizes of hina dolls which consist only of the emperor and the empress as it is more affordable and easy to store after the festival. Japanese tradition believes that they must put away the hina dolls as soon as the festival ends, or else their daughter will not be able to get married for a long time.
Apart from material celebrations, the Japanese also have some delicious savory dishes and scrumptious desserts to celebrate thisfestival such as hina arare, hishi mochi, chirashi-zushi, and hamaguri ushio-jiru. Hina arare are multicoloured rice crackers whichoften are white, pink, green, and yellow colours in small pieces. Hishi mochi is a tri-colour rice cake with pink, white, and green layers. Chirashi-zushi uses sushi rice and many colorful toppings that when assembled, resembles a sushi cake. It usually contains vinegared rice, fish, egg, and vegetables that are optional and may change depending on the family’s tastes. And lastly, hamaguri ushio-jiru is a clear clam soup made with kelp, calm, and some garnishes.
Did you learn anything interesting about Hina Matsuri? These days, Japanese people still celebrate Hina Matsuri while it is not only for girls but it also celebrates femininity among women in Japanese society. It is a fun, colorful celebration, with beautiful decorations and delicious food. We hope you get to experience it sometime too!
Jidd // Thailand