HINA Matsuri or “Girls’ Day” is a Japanese celebration on March 3, where families pray for the happiness and prosperity of their girls. They believe the prayers and rituals performed on that day will help their daughters grow up to be healthy and beautiful.
Most families with girls will have “hina-ningyo” in their homes. They are special dolls for the festival and usually arranged on a five or seven-tiered stand which is covered by red carpet. The Emperor and Empress of Japan are always displayed at the top, with the other tiers showcasing different attendants and musicians. All the dolls wear ancient court costumes from the Heian period (794-1184).
Families generally put the dolls out for display in February and take them down immediately after March 3. There is a superstition that says leaving the dolls out past March 4 will result in a late marriage for the daughter, and no one would want that!
The custom of displaying the dolls began during the Heian period. People believed that the sin of the body and misfortune could be transferred to a doll, and then removed by sending the doll down a river to the sea in a boat. This custom is called “hina-okuri” or “nagashi-bina”, and certain areas still perform this custom late on the afternoon of March 3 in various areas across Japan.