While the lines of gender have become increasingly fused in this epoch of egalitarian virtue in the free world, there remain some traditions that designate roles based upon one’s gender. Two of these festivals take place in Japanese culture during the Spring Season. These festivals are not necessarily representative of how the collective perceive that each gender should embrace their roles, but rather to illustrate the importance of the differences between the two.

Every March 5th, the Festival of Hina Matsuri is held. This translates to “Girls’ Festival,” and is intended to encourage feminine qualities in young Japanese girls that the family deem positive. Prior to the festival, families with young girls often work together (or each member may work alone) to create a doll, possibly of a significant figure in Japanese history such as an empress, or they may create a new character. Then, on March 5th, these dolls are arranged in a special alcove created for this day in the family’s living room. The young female(s) of the family, dressed in their fanciest Kimono, will then offer these dolls fruits and vegetables on miniature dishes. This is essentially a practice run through for how a female should act elegant in the company of others.

Exactly two months later, on the 5th of May the ancient Festival of Tango-No-Sekku is held. Similar to Hina Matsuri, this translates to “Boys’ Festival.” The purpose of the boys’ festival is to encourage positive masculine qualities within a young man. To celebrate, kites that depict red and black carp are flown by young Japanese men in the company of their families. Carp was the chosen animal by the Japanese ancestors due to their strength and virility as they have to battle the current to go upriver to meet their mate and reproduce.

Though there are certainly some gender stereotypes present in these festivals, ideally one would be able to extract the positive from this as well. It is not necessary, but very valuable that the feminine possess grace and decency, while the masculine possess strength and exertion. The argument could certainly be made that it is just as significant for the opposite gender to occupy the same qualities; however with some celebrations that are deep-rooted with tradition, it is also important to remember the mindset of our ancestors.

Were there or are there still any traditions or customs that you can think of that stressed the societal roles that an individual should take on based upon their gender?

Blessed Be!
Cormac O’Dwyer
Librarian and Senior Witch