Monday, June 28, 2010

Doll festival or Girls’ Festival (Hina matsuri or Hina no Sekku)

Hinamatsuri takes place on March 3 when the ornamental peach trees are in bloom. This day is also called “Momo no sekku” (Peach blossom’s Festival), the first flowering trees to bloom as winter turns to spring. The peach blossoms symbolize for happy marriage and that families pray for the happiness, prosperity and healthy growth of girls.

Several days before March 3, the precious dolls are removed from their wooden boxes where they have been stored and then arranged on a seven tiered stand that has been draped with a red cloth. The dolls are representations of the Imperial court and are made of kiri wood and straw.

The Hina dolls are arranged precisely the same way every year. A set of Hina dolls usually consists of at least 15 dolls which wear costumes of the imperial court during the Heian period (794-1192). The display also includes miniature household articles which are often exquisite artistic productions. The dolls most highly valued are the Dairi-sama, which represent the Emperor and Empress in resplendent court costumes of silk. They are attended by their two Ministers, three kanjo (Court Ladies), and five Court Musicians. All are displayed on one of usually five steps, each from 3 to 6 feet-long and covered with bright red cloth, making the figures look like they are sitting on a red carpet The Imperial couple occupy the top step, the Emperor at the left of the Empress. Court ladies and banquet trays and dishes occupy the second tier; the other dolls are arranged on the lower tiers.

• Sitting at the top center are Emperor and Empress. They are wearing the twelve-layered ceremonial robe

called (juhni-hitoe).
• On the second tier displays three Court Ladies (three kanjo or three ladies-in-waiting to the Emperor and Empress.)
• On the third tier play five male court Musicians.
• On the fourth tier has the Lords sit on either side of small dishes of food and furniture.
• On the next tier has three drunken servants with a cherry tree on the right and a wild orange tree on the left.
• On the final step has furniture and coaches.

The practice of displaying these dolls on the third day of the third month on the traditional Japanese calendar began during the Edo period (1603-1868). It started as a way of warding off evil spirits, with the dolls acting as a charm. Even today, people in some parts of the country made paper dolls, and in making them they transferred their ill fortunes or sickness to the dolls. Gathering the dolls, and release paper dolls into a nearby brook or rivers after the festival, praying that the dolls take people’s place in carrying away sickness and bad fortune. It was thus an occasion for a family outing, just when the pleasant spring season started. Also the date which this festival is held marks the onset of spring.

Typical special foods that are eaten on Hina matsuri day.

A sweet snack only for Hinamatsuri is called Hina arare (colored rice cakes), Hishimochi (diamond shaped rice cakes with pink, green and white layers) are placed on the stand with hina dolls as an offering. Hishimochi are colored in red (or pink) cakes (implies chasing evil spirits away or peach flowers), white cakes (implies purity or snow), and green cakes (implies health or new growth), Hama-guri (Clam),sakura mochi (bean paste-filled rice cakes with cherry leaves),shiro zake (sweet white sake) is made from fermented rice. It is kind of sake, but it doesn’t have alcohol.

The Hina Matsuri song.

Happy Hinamatsuri (Ureshii Hinamatsuri)

Akari o tsukemashou bonbori ni
Ohana o agemashou momo no hana
Go-nin bayashi no fue taiko
Kyoo wa tanoshii hinamatsuri


Let’s light the lanterns
Let’s set peach flowers
Five court musicians are playing flutes and drums
Today is a joyful Dolls’ Festival

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