Hatsu Sekku: Celebrating Heian Japan Customs With Baby

Hatsu Sekku: Celebrating Heian Japan Customs With Baby

Hina Matsuri (雛祭り)and Kodomo no Hi (こどもの日) are 2 of 5 sekku, traditional Japanese celebrations deeply rooted in Japan’s Heian imperial court. Hatsu Sekku (初節句) are Momo no sekku (桃の節句) for baby girls and Tango no Sekku (端午の節句) for baby boys.

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 that were traditionally held at 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 (五節句, gosekku)

Some sekku are still celebrated by the public today.

July 7: Tanabata (七夕), the day on which crossed lovers Orihime and Hikoboshi meet, is actually a sekku called Kikkoden.

September 9: the autumn rice harvest (菊の節句, kiku no sekku)

January 7: Kochouhai (小朝拝) 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)

May 5: Tango no sekku (端午の節句)

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 used to be called 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.

Head to my shop page to get this adorable Hakama Romper, matching Tabi/Geta Non-slip Socks, & Hair Accessory.


For Momo No Sekku (Hina Matsuri)

The grandest display is of hina ningyou (雛人形), dolls that represent members of the Japanese imperial court at a wedding ceremony.

Back in the day, people made dolls out of straw and cloth and threw them in the river. This was done in hopes that illness and bad fortune would stick to the dolls, and not their daughters.

There are several days in February when you display hina dolls, but usually it’s sometime between February 3 and the middle of February. They should be taken down by March 4 lest your daughter marry late in life — or worse, not marry at all!

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 normally only see the single tiered display.

The male and female dolls are Odairi-sama (御内裏様, emperor) and Ohina-sama (御雛様, empress).

Look closely at the hina ningyou and you’ll clearly see the fashion and beauty trends of Heian Japan.

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 a hina ningyo doll set here (link in Japanese):

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.

Just like with hina dolls, little boys also get a doll of their own. Actually it’s a samurai’s helmet (兜, kabuto) and armor (鎧, yoroi) to display at home.

These are put up around March 20/Spring Equinox. Here’s my husband’s:

Every year my MIL puts him on display and presents him with a plate of kashiwa mochi.

Just as with hina matsuri/momo no sekku, tango no sekku has deep roots in Heian Japan. It’s based on the life and times of an actual war hero. All traditional decorations are to ensure they young boys grow up to be healthy and strong warriors.

Get your own samurai helmet and armor here (link in Japanese):

Hatsu Sekku: Celebrating Heian Japan Customs With Baby

Momo no sekku marks the end of all the Japanese celebrations for the monster in her first year of life.

Next up will be shichi go san… when she will be three years old!

Take a trip down memory lane and read about her previous celebrations:

Japan’s Spartan First Birthday Celebration – Isshou Mochi

Baby’s First New Year – Hatsu Shougatsu

Baby’s First Christmas – Hajimete No Kurisumasu

Half Birthday – Celebrating 6 Months of Life Together

Okuizome – An Elaborate Feast for Baby

O-Shichiya & Meimei-shiki – Japanese Baby Naming Tradition

O-Miya Mairi – Taking Baby to a Shrine

Inu no Hi – A Shrine Visit for Pregnant Women

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