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Lesson Transcript

Hello, and welcome to the Culture Class- Holidays in Japan Series at JapanesePod101.com. In this series, we’re exploring the traditions behind Japanese holidays and observances. I’m Becky, and you're listening to Season 1, Lesson 6- "Japanese Doll’s Festival."
The "Doll’s Festival," or 雛祭り (Hina-matsuri), is held on March 3rd. It’s an annual event to pray for the healthy growth of girls. The prototype for the Doll’s Festival dates back to the Heian period, lasting from the 8th century to the 12th century. During that era, people believed that a paper doll could contain bad spirits. So they would send the dolls floating down the river, taking any misfortune with them. It was from this practice that the custom of praying for one's daughter's safety originated. Known as 流し雛 (nagashibina), this custom has evolved to its present form in which dolls are used as room decorations in order to protect one's daughter from calamity.
Now, before we go any further, do you know the answer to this question- which flower is always used for decoration during the Doll’s Festival?
If you don’t already know, you’ll find out a bit later. Keep listening.
Doll displays are decorated with a focus on the emperor doll and empress doll. Gold folding screens are arranged behind the emperor and empress dolls on a red felt carpet. Generally, the emperor doll is placed on the left side, and the empress doll on the right. This custom also influences weddings—the groom sits on the left, and the bride on the right.
On the tier below them, "three court ladies" are placed who care for the couple. The third tier holds "five court musicians," who play instruments such as flutes and drums. These dolls are offered 菱餅 (hishimochi) or "diamond-shaped rice cakes" and ひなあられ (hina-arare) "sweet rice crackers". A celebration is held in front of these dolls, during which people drink a white liquor and enjoy ちらし寿司 (chirashizushi) or "sushi with seafood or vegetables on top" and clam soup.
These dolls are generally displayed from early to mid-February for about a month until the day of the Doll’s Festival. What’s interesting is the time when the dolls are put away. People clear away the dolls as soon as the festival is over because of a saying, "late to clear away, then late to marry." Many people believe that "a daughter who cannot clean will not become a good bride."
A girl's first doll festival is referred to as 初節句 (hatsuzekku). For this celebration, the maternal grandparents often give a set of dolls. With this gift, they place a wish that the doll will be used as a scapegoat so that their cute granddaughter will not suffer from disaster. Some dolls are exquisite and have seven or eight layers of decoration. The value of such dolls can be more than 500,000 yen. There are also popular compact types which can be easily decorated and stored in apartments and rental housing.
Now it's time to answer our quiz question- which flower is used for decorations?
The correct answer is a "peach blossom." Peach blossoms bloom from the end of March to the beginning of April of the lunar calendar, just around the time of the Doll’s Festival. For this reason, the festival is also known as 桃の節句 (Momo no Sekku) or “Peach Seasonal Festival". In the past, peaches were believed to have the power to purge evil spirits. Therefore, peach blossoms are used as decorations for the Doll’s Festival to obtain the protection of peaches and help girls grow up healthy. 
Well listeners, how was this lesson?
Did you learn something new?
In your country, is there a day when you pray for girls’ growth and happiness?
Please leave us a comment telling us at JapanesePod101.com.
And we’ll see you next time!