The Origin of Hinanatsuri -Girl’s Festival-
Tomorrow, the 3rd of March is Hinamatsuri in Japan. In English often translated as Girl’s Festival or Doll’s Festival. The families who have daughters decorate the house with dolls and peach flowers, as it’s also called, Momo no Sekku (peach seasonal festival).
However, the official name of Hinamatsuri is Joshi no Sekku (上巳の節句). What is that?
The origin is in the ancient China around in the 300s. That time, the day of Joshi was a bad luck day and people would go to the river to purify themselves.
This event, Joshisetu (上巳節) was brought to Japan between the 7th and 9th Century. At the beginning it was an event for the Emperor to expel evil spirits and later, in Heian period (平安時代 794-1192) it became a festival called Joshi no Setsue (上巳の節会). In this festival, people would play games by the water such as reading a poem before a cup streams down the river or would make a small doll with clay or a piece of paper and caress your body where you have an illness with the doll before letting it go in the water. The latter still remains in several parts of Japan and now it's called Nagashi-bina (流し雛).
The origin of Hina dolls:
In Heian period, the girls in the Court played with dolls made of paper and it was called Hina asobi (雛遊び). The word “hina” means small and pretty things. In the painting above is “The Tale of Genji” and you can see dolls in a small house. This is the scene where Hikaru Genji (光源氏) watches Wakamurasaki (若紫) playing with hina dolls. As it was a play for noble people, the clothes are reflected the costume in the Court.
This play combined with Joshi no Sekku and a pair of dolls were made as a substitution of humans, so that’s the dolls who were affected by the bad luck. Later, with the better skills in doll manufacturing, people started to decorate instead of releasing them into the water.
Edo Shogunate had set five seasons and Joshi no Sekku was included. As a contrary to the Boy’s Day on the 5th of May, the 3rd of March had become the Girl’s Day.
Around this time, the dolls were seen as the financial power of the family and the decoration was getting bigger and gorgeous. People would show each other their dolls to compete, or visit different houses with food to see the decoration. Common people also longed to have a Hinamatsuri. After the quality of life of the common people increased, Hinamatsuti became a seasonal festival and the families wished a happiness for their daughters.
Why Momo no Sekku?
Momo, peach is written as 桃 in Japanese. A tree, 木 and omen, 兆 are combined in this kanji. It was believed that the peach was a symbol of omen for life and was used for purifying bad spirits and also became a symbol of women who carry babies. The 3rd of March was late March according to the lunar calendar and it was a season for peach flowers. Therefore, ancient people celebrate Hinamatsuri with peach flowers to with for a long-life.
This explains why this famous folklore, Momo-taro (“Peach Boy”) was born from a massive peach.
Nowadays, Japanese people tend to live in small houses and there are variety of Hina doll decorations including a hand-size one.
Maybe one for next year?
All About: https://allabout.co.jp/gm/gc/220699/
Japan Culture Lab: https://jpnculture.net/joushinosekku/
Cute! The dolls-taking-away-illness reminds me of some old Witchcraft traditions in England (dolls called ‘poppets’ could be used for all sorts of things). I’m sure it’s one of those things common to all cultures. Happy Momo Festival 😉
I think it’s common in different parts of the world. I’ve been once given very small dolls from South America as a souvenir. They told me to keep it in my wallet and it would keep away bad spirits from me. Enjoy Hinamatsuri!