Japanese Celebrations for Babies and Children, Motherhood in Japan, Spring in Japan

Hatsu Sekku: Momo no Sekku and Tango no Sekku

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What Is Hatsu Sekku?

To start, we need to look at the Japanese language and brush up on some history. Hatsu (初) means first while sekku (節句) are one of five annual ceremonies of the Japanese imperial court. Most of these celebrations have the roots in China and came to Japan during the Nara Period.

In the Heian period (8th-12th century) sekku caught on — probably because they were an excuse to show off one’s fabulous wardrobe and upstage others in the imperial court.

The 5 Sekku

Some sekku are still celebrated by the public today. You might even be familiar with a few.
July 7: Tanabata (七夕), the day on which crossed lovers Orihime and Hikoboshi meet
September 9: Kiku no Sekku (菊の節句), Chrysanthemum Festival 
January 7:  Nanakusa no Sekku (七草の節句), celebrating the Japanese New Year.
Finally we have the main events for boy and girls across Japan:
March 3: Momo no sekku (桃の節句) or Girls’ Day
May 5: Tango no sekku (端午の節句) or Boys’ Day

What’s the Difference Between Hatsu Sekku, Hina Matsuri and Kodomo no Hi?

Nothing at all.

I was a bit confused about hastu sekku/momo no sekku because it’s on March 3, which is Hina Matsuri (雛祭り or Girls’ Day). The same with May 5 being Tango no Sekku and Kodomo no Hi (こどもの日、which was Boys’ Day ages ago).

How could March 3 be the monster’s “first” sekku if she was born in February and Girls’ Day is in March?
Here’s the deal:

Infant girls who are haya umare (早生まれ, born in January, February, or March) traditionally celebrate their hatsu sekku AKA momo no sekku (Hina Matsuri) the following year.

Likewise, haya umare infant boys born in March, April or May celebrate their hatsu sekku AKA tango no sekku (Kodomo no Hi/Boy’s Day) the following year.

What Do You Do For Hatsu Sekku?

Decorate the house, dress up the baby, eat traditional sweets, maybe go to a shrine and of course take lots of pictures for Instagram family and friends.

For Momo No Sekku (Hina Matsuri)

You’ll see temari (手毬), decorative ornamental balls made from kimono scraps. The grandest display is of hina ningyo (雛人形), dolls that represent members of the Japanese imperial court.

There are several days in February when you display hina dolls but usually it’s sometime between February 3 and the middle of February.

今日は雨水ってことで、遂にお雛様出しました。 ちっさくてかわいいなー。出すのもしまうのも楽チン! 平昌オリンピック、我が家で大フィーバー!!してるのは私だけ…だけど、色々感動してるー。 やっぱりスポーツって良いよね。見るだけだけど。🐷 Displayed our daughter’s hina dolls as it’s supposed to be a good day for it (Isuzu 雨水 the 2nd solar term, the day when the Sun is exactly at the celestial longitude of 330°). I’ve been enjoying PyongChang Olympics… It’s wonderful to see some sportsmanship beyond differences in countries and cultures! * * #雛人形#桃の節句#平昌オリンピック#旦那との温度差に引く #樋口美穂子コーチ #羨ましい #宇野昌磨君 #私もハグしたい #できないから代わりに#似ていると噂の長男をハグ #pyongchangolympics2018 #loveolympics #myhusband #cantbebothered #ママリ #ママノコ#コドモノ #ベビフル #ベビリトル#国際結婚 #1歳2ヶ月 #14months #babygirl

Yukaさん(@peachpiepapers)がシェアした投稿 –

The most elaborate ones have seven tiers (壇、dan) with 49 dolls (7 is a lucky number). But practically no one nowadays has space to keep such huge display in their home so that’s why you generally only see the single tiered display.

The male and female dolls are dairi-bina. Odairi-sama (御内裏様, emperor) and Ohina-sama (御雛様, empress).
Look closely at the hina ningyo and you’ll clearly see the fashion and beauty trends of Heian Japan:

Odairi-sama is rocking the facial hair that was popular back in the day while Ohina-sama is wearing the junihitoe (十二単, twelve layered robe) that features the patterns and colors of spring. Her makeup is on point; her hikimayu (引眉、shaved and redrawn higher eyebrows) are on fleek.

Too bad you can’t see her ohaguro (お歯黒, blackened teeth) that compliment her snow white face!
Get your hina ningyo doll set here (link in Japanese).

To clarify, these dolls aren’t for playing! They’re purely ornamental with the purpose of protecting the daughter of the household from danger and physical ailments. The idea is that the dolls will absorb the evil and calamity. Back in the day, the dolls were made from wood and scraps, then thrown down river when Momo no sekku was all over.

Here’s another fun fact: the dolls can go up before March 3, but they must be taken down at the end of the day or your daughter might never get married! #patriarchy

Tango No Sekku (Kodomo No Hi/Boy’s Day)

The most commonly seen display are carp streamers (鯉のぼり, koi nobori); the size and color represent members of the family (mom, dad, son and so on).

Carp streamers go up early April. You’ll see them in front of houses but several cities in Japan are known for their large scale displays.

READ: 5 Picture-Perfect Carp Streamer Festivals In Japan

Just like with hina dolls, little boys also get a doll of their own to display at home. These go up around March 20/Spring Equinox and come down after Boys’ Day on May 5. I have no idea if boys’ marriage prospects dwindle if they are not removed promptly!

Hatsu Sekku: Momo no Sekku and Tango no Sekku

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