A mother and daughter fold paper dolls (origami) for Girls’ Day.

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Celebrating Girls' Day in Hawaii

Originating in Japan, Girls’ Day is traditionally a festival to wish for the health and wellbeing of young girls. Although the day is celebrated differently here in Hawaii, we still like to give the girls a day all their own.

Hinamatsuri, also called Dolls' Day or Girls’ Day, takes place every March 3 and is mostly celebrated by Hawaii families of Japanese and Okinawan descent. Early Japanese immigrants first brought the holiday to the Islands.

Following Girls’ Day tradition, elaborate dolls were given to Japanese girls upon birth, detailed with brocaded silk kimonos, fans and musical instruments. Young girls would display their dolls in arrangements up to seven tiers high. Tradition states that the display must be taken down by March 3 or the girls would not find husbands.

In Hawaii, you will find trays of hishi mochi sitting in the storefronts of Asian groceries. The diamond shaped colored rice cakes are the traditional food of Girls’ Day. Red or pink represents peach blossoms and other flowers, white signifies snow or purity and green symbolizes growth or fertility.

If this was 19th century Japan, girls could expect gifts of peach blossoms and paper dolls—symbols of a peaceful and prosperous marriage. Current generations of girls have come to expect something more sensible: perhaps a high-tech trinket or some money.

In the modern Hawaii workplace, adult women will often find a box of mochi cookies by the office water cooler, and it’s not uncommon for male co-workers to treat the ladies to lunch as and unofficial Girls’ Day tradition.