Happy Girls’ Day! March 3rd is Hina Matsuri, or Girls Day/Doll/Peach Festival! On the third day of the third month, people pray for the success, happiness and healthy growth of girls. Families customarily set up a display of hina ningyo (hina dolls) in the house accompanied with peach blossoms for their daughters. This tradition dates back to the Edo period (1603-1868), which displayed Heian-clothed dolls as a way of warding off evil spirits.
One of Five ・ (五節句) Gosekku
Hina Matsuri is one of Japan’s five seasonal festivals (gosekku) listed below.
- January 7: Nanakusa no sekku (Seven grasses Festival) (七草の節句)
- Rice porridge seasoned with seven herbs is eaten for good health
- March 3: Hina Matsuri (Girls’ Day) (桃の節句)
- Dolls are displayed in hopes of good health and marriage for young girls. Associated with dolls and peaches (桃).
- May 5: Kodomo no hi (Boys’/Childrens’ Day) (菖蒲の節句)
- Carp streamers are hung as a symbol of strength. Highly associated with irises (菖蒲).
- July 7: Tanabata (Star Festival) (七夕)
- Celebrates the folk tale of two lovers banished to either side of the Milky Way and who can only meet on July 7th. Children write wishes and hang them on bamboo branches on this day.
- September 9: Choyo no sekku (Chrisanthemum Festival) (菊の節句)
- *Not widely observed in Japan. With origins in China where the number nine is lucky.
The main part of Hina Matsuri is the grand display of beautifully crafted hina dolls. These dolls are placed on a 5-7-tiered hinadan covered in red carpet. The dolls represent the Emperor and Empress on the top tier, and the rest of the imperial court below. There may be three court ladies, five musicians, other attendants, and more. Interspersed throughout the display are traditional imperial regalia, sake, mochi and other festive foods. The hinadan can be one of the most cherished possessions in a Japanese household. A new set of dolls is usually passed down through generations or purchased when the first daughter is born. They are set up in mid-late February with much time and patience. Today, there are prearranged sets of hinadan but the real beauty is those displayed by hand.
Much of the food eaten during this holiday is Spring- and/or pink-colored. These include chirashi-zushi, clam soup, various kinds of mochi, strawberry daifuku, sanshoku-dango, hina-arare (colorful rice crackers), and white sake. Some of the recipes mentioned can be found here at Just One Cookbook.
There is a superstition that if the dolls aren’t put away quickly after the March 3rd festival, the celebrated daughters will have trouble getting married.