Did you get anything for Valentines Day? Do you know you might be obligated to return something?
In America and many other parts of the world, February 14 is a holiday for lovers. It is a day to give cards, candies or flowers to your Valentine. They have this is Japan too, but with a twist. February 14 is still Valentines Day, but generally, only the women give gifts on that day. Exactly one month later, on March 14, a sort of second go around of Valentines Day occurs here in Japan. It's called White Day.
White Day is the day for men to give gifts in return to those who gave them gifts the previous month. The reason it is called White Day is that traditionally (in the sense of a rather recent tradition, of course), white chocolate or marshmallow candies are the gift of choice.
White Day was started in Japan by the candy companies as a gimmick to increase candy sales, and in that sense, it is similar to what Hallmark in the U.S. did with its creation of "Secretaries Day" and "Grandparents Day". The way White Day developed, however, would seem to imply that it may have been thought out as more than just a new way to sell candy. It gives men a chance to see who gives them what, and allows them a chance to go out and find something to give in return. This seems a little unfair to the women, but at least the men can no longer say "I forgot" or "I didn't know you were going to get me anything"!
March 3rd is a special day for girls in Japan. It is "Girls' Day", and also the day of Hina Matsuri, or the Doll Festival. On this day, girls dress up and invite their friends over for refreshments and to admire their doll collections. These are not like the dolls most little girls play with. They are the kind of dolls that are too fragile and expensive to be handled and are for display only. After about two weeks, the dolls are put away and stored with other family treasures.
A set is usually made up of about 15 dolls. Today they are purchased mainly in department stores for up to two or three hundred thousand yen. These sets can include everything from a chest of drawers to an ox-drawn carriage (in miniature, of course).
In the old days, dolls and furniture were added to the collection when a girl was born into the family, and when a girl married, she would take her own portion of the collection with her and add to it when a girl was born to her.
The Hina Matsuri has its origins in the ancient practice of ritual purification in which people ritually transferred their sins onto paper dolls and floated them in a river when picnicking outdoors in the spring. The peak of popularity was during the Edo period (1603-1867), which is also when the dolls came to be modeled after courtiers.
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