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Hinamatsuri (雛祭り, Hina-matsuri), also called Doll's Day or Girls' Day, is a special day in Japan. Celebrated on 3 March of each year, platforms covered with a red carpet-material are used to display a set of ornamental dolls (雛人形, hina-ningyō) representing the Emperor, Empress, attendants, and musicians in traditional court dress of the Heian period.
Hinamatsuri is one of the five seasonal festivals (五節句, go-sekku) that are held on auspicious dates of the Chinese calendar: the first day of the first month, the third day of the third month, and so on. After the adoption of the Gregorian calendar, these were fixed on 1 January, 3 March, 5 May, 7 July, and 9 September. The festival was traditionally known as the Peach Festival (桃の節句, Momo no Sekku), as peach trees typically began to flower around this time. Although this is no longer true since the shift to Gregorian dates, the name remains and peaches are still symbolic of the festival.
The primary aspect of Hinamatsuri is the display of seated male and female dolls (the obina (男雛) and mebina (女雛), literally "male doll" and "female doll" respectively), which represent a Heian period wedding, but usually described as the Emperor and Empress of Japan, usually on red cloth. These may be as simple as pictures or folded paper, or intricately carved three-dimensional dolls. More elaborate displays will include a multi-tiered doll stand (雛壇, hinadan) of dolls that represent ladies of the court, musicians, and other attendants, with all sorts of accoutrements. The entire set of dolls and accessories is called the hinakazari (雛飾り). The number of tiers and dolls a family may have depends on their budget.
Families normally ensure that girls have a set of the two main dolls before their first Hinamatsuri. The dolls are usually fairly expensive ($1,500 to $2,500 for a five-tier set, depending on quality) and may be handed down from older generations as heirlooms. The hinakazari spends most of the year in storage, and girls and their mothers begin setting up the display a few days before 3 March (boys normally do not participate, as 5 May, now Children's Day was historically called "Boys' Day"). Traditionally, the dolls were supposed to be put away by the day after Hinamatsuri, the superstition being that leaving the dolls any longer will result in a late marriage for the daughter, but some families may leave them up for the entire month of March. Practically speaking, the encouragement to put everything away quickly is to avoid the rainy season and humidity that typically follow Hinamatsuri. Historically, the dolls were used as toys, but in modern times they are intended for display only. The display of dolls usually discontinues when the girls reach 10 years old.