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Japan has always been rich in traditional culture. People are blessed with a diverse cultural life and unique festivals found only in Japan. One such festivity is the Doll Festival. The Japanese don’t really celebrate International Children’s Day, which is on June 1.  Instead, it is customary to hold separate celebrations for  boys and girls on different days . The day for girls is called Hina-matsuri, or  the Doll Festival, and it takes place annually on March 3.

This festival is an important day for families to pray for happiness, good luck, vibrant health and a blessed family life for their daughters.  Households also display very beautiful,  traditionally made, dolls. These dolls are put on display in February, prior to the main festival. As soon as the festival is over, the dolls must be immediately stored away. If the dolls are still on display on March 4, it is believed the girls will grow up and have difficulties getting married.

Dolls are exhibited on a vermillion carpet and placed in a neat and orderly hierarchy on shelves comprising  five to seven steps, depending on each family. At the highest level  are the two king  and  queen dolls, clad in flamboyant costumes. The second level has court maid dolls, the third has five male musicians, the fourth has two mandarin dolls, one young and the other old. The fifth level has three samurais standing guard for the king  and the queen. Both the sixth and seventh levels are strewn with a set of belongings characterizing the luxury of the imperial court. Each type of doll is specifically designed with a great variety of shape, colour and material.

During the Doll Festival, children are also treated to special foods, including hishi-mochi buns with  diamond shapes  and bright colours symbolizing spring vitality. Hishi-mochi buns are served with crispy hina-arare made of rice dough. The signature drink is shirozake, a rice liquor brewed from fermented rice.

Today, Japanese families maintain the custom of doll decoration. Young ladies, upon marriage, are given these dolls as a proxy from their families. This tradition has been in existence in the Land of the Rising Sun for millennia. Hina-matsuri reflects the unique cultural essence of ordinary life in Japan. Beyond its sacred value, the festival also allows for cozy family gatherings.