Tomorrow, March 3rd is Hina Matsuri Day, aka Doll Day, in Japan, a day to wish good health and happiness of girls. Families will set up an intricate 5-7 tier display of hina dolls wearing colorful kimono in their home. The dolls are meant to ward off evil spirits. This holiday corresponds with Momo no Sekku, aka Peach Festival, since peach blossom season occurs in March on lunar calendars. Special food is prepared such as chirashizushi, sugar-flavored sushi rice vinegar with raw fish on top, clam soup served in the shell and sakura (cherry blossom) mochi. Families and communities will celebrate the day together.
Yesterday and Today
Hina Matsuri Day began in the Edo period in the 17th century with its origins in early spring farming rites performed to ensure successful harvests. Many different types of dolls were hand crafted to symbolize this affair. Although it’s rare to celebrate girls within Japanese culture, today Hina Matsuri is evolving as a holiday to celebrate all women, not just girls.
I wasn’t into dolls much as a baby or toddler. I don’t really push dolls on SJ either. In fact, the dolls she owns are gifts from family or friends, who naturally gift “doll” when it comes to a little girl. My favorite doll of hers is the mixed race Mon Premier Bébé Calin Yang. She’s intercultural no less – French and Chinese! It was a gift from my college best friend who also happens to be raising a mixed ethnic family of her own. For as harmless as a doll can be, I appreciate that this one actually looks like me. I grew up with a chest full of Caucasian Barbies so it’s refreshing to have some color thrown into the mix. SJ doesn’t differentiate her dolls by ethnicity, but I like exposing her to the diversity.
Books are another great way I’ve been integrating different cultures into our home. We’ve memorized books such as Yum Yum Dim Sum and the First Book of Sushi. Now we’re reading Last Stop on Market Street and My Cat Copies Me Shop (which can all be found in the ). There’s a slow and steady increasing number of multicultural books for children.
Even with TV, I like to switch on Dora the Explorer or Nina’s World. Both shows represent a distinct cultural influence on screen within the characters and their families. It’s also a nice break from the same old reruns of Paw Patrol or Curious George.
I’m waiting for her to get a bit older to introduce her to a few multicultural kid apps I’ve been eyeing – The Legend of Momotaro, A Day in the Market and Mama Mae: Mookey. There are more choices out there if you look beyond aisles at Target or Toys ‘R Us.
I’ll introduce SJ to Hina Matsuri Day, not in an extravagant fashion, but in an age appropriate way that makes her think about dolls beyond the concept of toy. It’s a small but special holiday that passes on a bit of my cultural heritage. She’s still very young, but I don’t think it’s too early to talk about the colorful world we live (and should live) in and the way we bring color into our home even through our dolls or our things.
Do you have any special toys that you remember or want to pass on? Are there any diverse or cultural toys you recommend? Let me know in the comments!