March 3rd marks the traditional Japanese holiday, Hina-matsuri (ひな祭り), also known as Doll Festival, Peach Festival, or Girl’s Day. It’s a time when young girls and their families celebrate and pray for the happiness and health of the girls by displaying a set of ornamental dolls (ひな人形, hina-ningyō) in beautiful kimono on a stair-like platform called “hina-dan (ひな壇)”.
The origin of this festival dates back to the Heian era (平安時代) which is about 1,000 years ago. At the time, it was a purification ceremony for good health, and people made paper dolls and transferred their misfortunes to them and threw them in rivers. Later in the Edo era, the ceremony became a festive event.
There are different types of sets, and one of the most gorgeous ones is a seven-tier set (七段飾り, shichi-dan-kazari), which has not just the main emperor doll (男びな, obina) and empress doll (女びな, mebina), but also some other figures like ministers (大臣, daijin), three court ladies (三人官女, sannin-kanjo), and five male musicians (五人囃子, gonin-bayashi) with some offerings including peach blossoms, carts, chests, and paper lanterns. Most of these traditional dolls are hand crafted, and the prices vary depending on the number of dolls, the quality of materials, how excellent the workmanship is, or who make them. Some sets that are made by famous doll artists could be as expensive as a brand-new car. They are often passed on from generation to generation.
Traditionally during this holiday, we eat scattered sushi (ちらし寿司, chirashi-zushi), hina-arare (ひなあられ, bite-sized sweet rice crackers which colors are red/pink, green, yellow and white), and hishi-mochi (ひし餅, colored-layered rice cakes that are, from the top, red/pink, white and green), but you could really eat anything that you want that is special to you.
Here’s to happiness and good health for all girls!
Photo credit (https://www.benricho.org/koyomi/5sekku-hinaningyo.html)