Every March 3rd, Japanese families have a holiday called Hina Matsuri–a day to celebrate girls. There is no analogous national Girls’ Day holiday in North America, but you and your daughter can create a Girls’ Day in your own family or community.
Hina Matsuri began as a Shinto holy day of purification, similar to the most sacred Jewish holy day, Yom Kippur. People created paper dolls to represent their impurities, and then put the dolls in a river to wash away their shortcomings. In recent centuries, the holiday has evolved into a ritual display of fancy dolls during a day on which families celebrate their daughters and pray for their girls’ future health and success.
According to the University of Florida’s Dr. Judy Shoaf (a collector of Japanese dolls), girls and their parents (usually mothers) take the dolls—called hina—out of storage and display them on a fancy, draped structure, like a small altar (such as the one above, from Dr. Shoaf’s website). The most exalted pair of dolls stand on the highest level, while below, “lesser” dolls pretend to serve them sake, play music, or guard the “royal” couple from intruders.
To help celebrate girls, families host their daughter’s friends for a party, and pretend to serve food to the dolls using tiny dish sets. The festival’s name, Hina Matsuri, combines the word for dolls (hina) and the word for festival (matsuri).
To create your own version of Hina Matsuri, think about what you and your daughter want to celebrate about girls, what it means to be a girl, and the unique girl your daughter is. Those qualities might include:
- Love of animals
- Keen analytical skills
- Artistic talent
You and your daughter can adapt the Japanese custom by making a display of dolls and/or stuffed animals that portray special qualities about her. Alternately, you can create works of art, writing, music, or performance as well.
Be creative about what you want to celebrate on your Girl’s Day, and how you want to celebrate it. You can also broaden the celebration to include other girls in your family (sisters, moms, aunts, grandmothers, cousins).
A Girls Day is a great activity to do with other father-daughter pairs in your neighborhood or your daughter’s school. The enthusiasm generated may snowball into a community-wide day to celebrate girls. And then, who knows, maybe we’ll start such a big trend that our entire country will widely embrace an official Girls Day, just like Japan!
Joe Kelly is the best-selling author of Dads and Daughters: How to Inspire, Understand, and Support Your Daughter and 5 other fathering books. He is also Co-Founder of New Moon Girls.