March 3 is Hina Matsuri, also known as “Doll’s Festival,” “Girls’ Festival,” or “Momo-no-Sekku” (Peach Festival). On this day the Japanese pray for the happiness and good health of girls.
The main feature of this celebration is a set of dolls, called hina ningyo, which represent the emperor, empress, and members of their court. The dolls are dressed in traditional court wear from the Heian Era (794 to roughly 1185), with the empress donning an impressive costume called juuni hitoe (twelve-layered ceremonial robe). Depending on the number of pieces, the dolls are arranged on five- or seven-tiered platforms, with the emperor and empress positioned at the top. Three ladies-in-waiting sit on the second tier, five male musicians on the third, two ministers with trays of food on the fourth, and three guards on the fifth. The sixth and seventh tiers are decorated with household ornaments and carriages.
Families display the dolls at home in February and pack them away the evening of March 3. Superstition dictates that if the dolls are left out after March 4, the daughters will marry late in life.
In New York, Japan Society celebrates Hina Matsuri with a festival on Sunday, March 6 from 2:00 p.m. until 4:00 p.m. Families will learn about the songs, tradition, and history of this Japanese observance. Participants will make their own hina dolls to take home. Bento catering service BentOn will provide healthy Japanese light meals, snacks, and festival-related refreshments such as amazake for purchase. This event is recommended for children aged three to ten with accompanying adults, and even though it’s Girls’ Day, boys are welcome! Tickets are $12 ($5 for Japan Society members), and to purchase, please visit Japan Society’s website.
Ongoing until Friday, March 24 is a display of dolls at the Japan Information Center at the Consulate General of Japan in New York. Visitors will see a seven-tiered stand displaying 15 hina ningyo to celebrate the festival. The Japan Information Center Gallery is located at 299 Park Avenue, between 48th and 49th Streets, 18th Floor, and the hours are Monday through Friday, 9:30 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. Admission is free.