What's TODAY?

Dolls festival/雛祭り-What’s TODAY?- no.4-

This article can be read in about 9 minutes.

Hina dolls (the Emperor, the Empress and three court ladies) that my grandparents gave me

A traditional event, called “hina-matsuri” or  literary means “Dolls festival” is observed on March third. 
People celebrate girls’ healthy growth by displaying special dolls during a certain period.
It’s not customary to play with the dolls. 
They are just displayed and looked at while children eating cubic rice crackers.
Usually lozenge-shaped rice cakes colored with red, green and white are offered to the dolls. 

The dolls represent the emperor and empress who wear the old Japanese costume, twelve layered Japanese kimono.
This was worn around the 8th to the 11th centuries during which the aristocrats came to power. 
A minimum display includes only those two dolls, but  the more elaborate one also includes three court ladies, ministers of the left and the right, five court musicians as well as three valets.

How long should we display Hina dolls ?

Customarily the event starts just after the traditional end of winter (Setsubun)
It’s common to start displaying dolls until March 3rd. 
However some display them for only several days because of their laziness.
People believed that the dolls had to be displayed for at least three days before March third to pay their respect to the dolls. 

It’s been said that the owner might not get married if she doesn’t put them back into the box as soon as the event finishes.  

What’s the history ?

In Tang Dynasty (China), people believed evil spirits brought misfortunes when the seasons change. 
So, in order to drive away evil spirits, people purified themselves by soaking themselves into the river.
This ritual came from Tang around the 8th century by the Japanese envoys and was combined with Japanese customs. 

In Japan, people passed their bad luck to the dolls and let them flow in the river. 
At the same time, it was common for the aristocrats’ daughters to play with dolls. 
Later in the Edo period from the 17th century to the mid 19th century, when some aristocrats’ daughters got married with samurai leaders, their parents prepared Hina dolls as one kind of wedding presents to the daughters. So, the Hina dolls were well known among the samurai society and playing with the dolls became popular.
That’s why Hina dolls wear aristocrats’ costume.

Although it was just a ceremony to drive away evil spirits, the military government developed it into one of the important seasonal festivals during the Edo period.

It was a national holiday around that time.
Thanks to their support, the skill of making dolls came to develop and the dolls changed their roles from being thrown away in the river to being displayed inside houses. 

Currently, when a family has a girl, they buy dolls on her behalf and pray for her good luck, good health and good match. 
That’s the origin of Girls’ Day.

Do you have a practice to celebrate children’s healthy growth and happiness ? 
If your answer is “yes”, you may leave a comment.
We’d love to hear it.

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Good day, I am the founder of Aurora Trip Nippon. Also, I am a Certified National Guide, Certified Tour Conductor, Certified General Travel Service Supervisor, as well as a Kimono Consultant.
I love Japan. So, you could ask us anything about Japan.

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