Hinamatsuri Doll Festival: March 3 marks the observance of the hinamatsuri (doll festival), one of five sekku, or seasonal festivals, celebrated through the year. Together known as gosekku, these events took shape in part through the influence of Chinese philosophy and were first observed by courtiers during the Heian period (794–1185). They fell on the first day of the year’s first month, the third day of the third month, and so on dates considered to be highly auspicious owing to the doubling of odd numbers for the month and date. (On the modern calendar, they are celebrated on January 1, March 3, May 5, July 7, and September 9.) On these days, ceremonies were conducted and special dishes prepared and eaten to ensure good fortune.
Japanese Doll Festival, Girls’ Day
Not National Holiday
The primary aspect of Hinamatsuri is the display of seated male and female dolls (the obina and mebina ), literally “male doll” and “female doll” respectively, which represent a Heian period wedding, but usually describedas the Emperor and Empress of Japan), usually on red cloth. These may be as simple as pictures or folded paper, or intricately carved three-dimensional dolls. More elaborate displays will include a multi-tiered doll stand (hinadan) of dolls that represent ladies of the court, musicians, and other attendants, with all sorts of accoutrements.
The entire set of dolls and accessories is called the hinazakari. The number of tiers and dolls a family may have depends on their budget. Families normally ensure that girls have a set of the two main dolls before their first Hinamatsuri. So, the dolls are usually fairly expensive ($1,500 to $2,500 for a five-tier set. However, depending on quality) and may be handed down from older generations as heirlooms. The hinazakari spends of most of the year in storage, and girls and their mothers begin setting up the display a few days before 3 March (boys normally do not participate, as 5 May, now Children’s Day was historically called “Boys’ Day”).
Traditionally, the dolls were supposed to be put away by the day after Hinamatsuri, the superstition being that leaving the dolls any longer will result in a late marriage for the daughter, but some families may leave them up for the entire month of March. Practically speaking, the encouragement to put everything away quickly is to avoid the rainy season and humidity that typically follow Hinamatsuri.
Historically, the dolls were used as toys, but in modern times they are intended for display only. The display of dolls usually discontinues when the girls reach 10 years old. Families often buy a new set of dolls when the first daughter is born. While others pass down hinakazari from one generation to the next. In the past it was not uncommon for new brides to take their set with them when they married. Undoubtedly, the hinadan represented one of the most splendid and valuable possession in the home and was cherished not just by girls, but the entire household. Many old hinakazari still remain and hold importance to broader society as cultural treasures.
There is a Hinamatsuri song called Ureshii Hinamatsuri (Happy Hinamatsuri). The lyrics is below:
Let’s light the lanterns,
Let’s set peach flowers,
Five court musicians are playing flutes and drums,
Today is a joyful Dolls’ Festival .