The hit single by Beyonce that sends out a confidently aggressive message of female empowerment says it right: “Who run the world? GIRLS!!”
And there’s no better day to have that song on full blast than today: Girls’ Day.
Another reason to enjoy the joys of mochi.
Also known as Hinamatsuri, Girls’ Day happens every March 3 and migrated overseas from Japan to our islands, where it found a home within the culture. Local families, mostly of Japanese or Okinawan descent, celebrate with mochi, diamond-shaped rice cakes and colorful flowers symbolizing various aspects of womanhood; white represents purity while green symbolizes fertility or growth.
I remember every Girls’ Day as a kid, waking up to find a gift bag stuffed with goodies from my dad – from li hing mui snacks to little toys to scratch-n-sniff stickers. A second Christmas! Needless-to-say, this made my older brothers a bit envious of me…but don’t worry, they get their day, too (Boy’s Day on May 5). This day was MY day, and when my little sister was born, it was OUR day…which meant, “no picking on your little sisters” and “give them whatever they want.” OK, maybe not a direct quote from my parents, but this was my understanding of it.
In 19th century Japan, however, the annual tradition was taken much more seriously. Girls could expect paper doll gifts, which symbolized a peaceful marriage. At birth, girls received ones much more elaborate and adorned with kimono and musical instruments. They displayed the dolls, sometimes rows and rows high, but if they didn’t take down the display by March 3, then they would never marry.
Japan has since gotten rid of Girls’ Day and instead replaced it with Children’s Day on May 5. But in Hawaii, the tradition remains as separate celebrations. And Girls’ Day isn’t limited to just girls but to adult women as well. As an unofficial Girls’ Day tradition, male co-workers will take the ladies to lunch or to coffee. The women might find boxes of mochi or sweets on their desk when they arrive to work.
This Girls’ Day, I’m making it my goal to find the diamond-shaped rice cake I mentioned earlier, which has become the traditional food of the holiday called hishi mochi. It shouldn’t be difficult to point out, as the mochi is layered in different colors: white (for winter and purity), red (for spring and spring flowers) and green (for summer and fertility). Wish me luck!