Celebrate: Hina Matsuri (Girls’ Day) – Part 2

Ahhh, Girls’ Day. The older my daughter gets, the more I love this holiday. And truth be told, the longer she’s in school, the more cultural tidbits I get to pick up as well.

In last year’s post, I wrote mostly about the tradition of putting up Hina Dolls in one’s house (but only if you have daughters). I won’t revisit that (you can read about it here) but I did learn the interesting little superstition from my friend that if you don’t dismantle your Hina doll set promptly after March 3rd, you’re destined to remain unmarried. Ouch.

A porcelain Hina doll set in Arita (Saga Prefecture)
A porcelain Hina doll set in Arita (Saga Prefecture)

So what does one get to eat on Girls’ Day? (You know I’m all about the food.) There are actually several specialties associated with the holiday:

  • Hishimochi – A bit like the rice cakes displayed at New Year’s, these rice cakes are diamond-shaped and colored pink, green and white. The pink is for plum blossoms, the flower that is in bloom around Girls’ Day; the white is for the snow that may still be lingering as the winter draws to an end; and green represents the rebirth of nature and the coming of spring. (You can see the rice cakes in the middle of the picture above, though this set happens to include a yellow layer.)
  • Hina arare – These are the most ubiquitous – and probably most beloved by sugar-happy kids – treats you’ll find on Girls’ Day. These colorful puffed rice balls are found in hues of white, pink and green and often sweetened with sugar. Supposedly, women in centuries past used the old mochi (rice cakes) from New Year’s to create these treats, showcasing their thriftiness to potential husbands (a desirable quality, I assume!).
  • Chirashi-zushi – Known as scattered sushi, this is one of the easiest forms of sushi to make. Simply put some vinegar rice in a bowl and top it with raw fish and various toppings, like egg strips, lotus chips, salmon roe, cucumber pieces and pickled ginger. I still can’t seem to track down a reason as to why chirashi-zushi is eaten on Girls’ Day but as I happen to thoroughly enjoy the dish, I’m always happy to have an excuse to consume it!
An outdoor Hina set, with plum blossoms in the background (right)
An outdoor Hina set, with plum blossoms in the background (right)

Despite all of the pink-hued foodstuffs recalling the plum blossom, the festival is actually associated with the peach blossom. Hina Matsuri is also known as momo-no-sekku, or peach blossom festival. In the traditional Hina Matsuri song (bilingual lyrics and actual song clips can be found on the mamalisa website), the words reference peach flowers instead of plum, as seen here:

Let’s light the lanterns on the tiered stand.
Let’s put peach blossoms on the tiered stand.
Five court musicians are playing flutes and drums.
Today is a happy Dolls’ Festival.

My daughter has been practicing this song both at school and at home all month, in preparation for Tuesday’s holiday. I must say, despite the annoying musical repetition that has been occurring in the past few weeks, she and I are both well-versed in first the Setsubun ditty and now the Hina Matsuri song!

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