There are many traditional annual events in Japan. Here I would like to introduce Hinamatsuri.
How do Japanese people cerebrate this annual event in spring?
Hinamatsuri is one of the annual events that celebrate the changing of the seasons. It is also called ‘the seasonal festival of peaches’, but is more commonly known as the girls’ festival.
It is celebrated on March 3rd every year.
Families with girls decorate with Hina dolls or peach flowers to wish for their happiness.
History of Hinamatsuri
It is said that the origin of Hinamatsuri is based on a custom from 3rd century China. People believed maliciousness has an easier time coming during the changing of the seasons. This was an imperial ceremony to keep away these bad things.
The ceremony changed into the beautiful girls’ festival we know today during the Edo period (1603-1868).
Hinamatsuri was made one of five special seasonal events, thus cementing its importance forever after.
Originally, both boys and girls celebrated this event. After May 5th started to be called ‘boys’ festival’ in 1948, Hinamatsuri became known as the girls’ festival.
The reason why Hinamatsuri is called ‘a seasonal festival of peaches’ is not only because they bloom in this season. Peach flowers are also believed to have the power to wash away all bad luck.
As I mentioned, it is called ‘a seasonal festival of peach’ because Hinamatsuri was originally an imperial ceremony to sweep away bad things.
I guess the first thing you might think of about Hinamatsuri are these Hina dolls.
It is said that Hina dolls were originally paper dolls that noble girls used to play with during the Heian period (794-1185).
Those paper dolls became connected to the girls festival, and have also been changing their style throughout history to the gorgeous attire we know today.
There are rules to each Hina dolls placement.
There are Odairi-sama and Ohina-sama. They sit at the top of the stairs.
Odairi-sama is supposed to be an emperor, with Ohina-sama as his wife.
There are three women who take care of the emperor just under them. They each have a pot with ‘sake’, a dipper to ladle the ‘sake’, and a ‘sake’ cup.
These men are guards. They both have bows and arrows.
The young guy on the left is called ‘Sa-daijin’ and the old guy on the right is called ‘U-daijin’.
Finally, at the the bottom of the stairs, there are three men called ‘Shi-cho’. They are pages at the imperial court.
People usually start decorating Hina dolls around February 4th (This is the day traditionally regarded as the beginning of spring) and they put them away just after Hinamatsuri (March 3rd).
As a matter of fact, there is a superstition about Hina dolls.
It is believed that if you keep Hina dolls decorated for too long after the festival, girls will miss the chance to get married!
Because of this, it is usual for Hina dolls to be put away soon after the festival.
I am not sure the origin of this superstition, but it is very unique and interesting, isn’t it?
The Foods of Hinamatsuri
Hishimochi -a diamond shaped rice cake-
This Hishimochi is an essential sweet for Hinamatsuri and is also often decorated in Hina dolls. These colors express the typical spring scene, sprouts (green) under the snow (white) with peach flowers (pink) blooming on top .
Hamaguri (Asian hard clam) soup
Hamaguri’s shells matches perfectly together and never match another pair.
So, people see the meaning of a happy couple or a women’s happiness in this shell.
This soup is very standard food during Hinamatsuri.
Chirashi means sprinkle in English.
When the seasons change, it is a time when people easily get sick.
People used to eat this chirashi-zushi, which has many ingredients sprinkled on top, to help provide nutrition.
This is also very standard Hinamatsuri food these days. Moms usually cook it at home for their daughters!