Our Travel Photo Thursday offering for 3 March 2011
One of those cultural experiences in Japan occurs every year on the third of March. For girls all over the country, it is a very special day. It’s a celebration for just being a girl known to the local population as “Hina Matsuri” or the Festival of the Dolls.
Its origins have been traced back to ancient China but it really gained popularity in Japan during the Edo period, 1603–1867. In its original form, people would make dolls, commonly known as hina ningyo, out of paper and then float them down a stream as a way to get rid of bad luck. Later it was combined with other traditions and it evolved into what we see today.
Today, the festival consists of a display of dolls, either in the home or in a public display such as in a school. The dolls are set up at the end of February and remain on display through the 3rd of March. The display is taken down immediately on March the 4th. To keep the display up beyond that is believed to invite bad luck.
On that special day, girls will invite their closest friends to their home for a party. Special foods are prepared and enjoyed. If the day falls on a weekday, many times schools or day care centers will hold a separate party or celebration just for the girls and dolls are set up on a special tiered display.
Usually, the parents or grandparents of a newborn baby girl will purchase a doll set or the set can be passed down from generation to generation. The new doll sets often become heirlooms and great care is taken to pack and unpack every individual piece of the set each year.
For families that cannot afford the larger and more expensive doll sets, smaller sets or even ornate origami (folded paper) doll figures are made and used in their place. Sometimes these modest hand made displays are just as beautiful and impressive as the more expensive versions.
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