On March 3 in Japan there is a festival called Hinamatsuri celebrating young girls primarily under the age of 10. This unofficial holiday prays for the health and prosperity of all young girls. Traditionally the festival made young girls dress up in kimonos and make dolls out of straw or paper. Then releasing the dolls in a small constructed boat on a river, allowing any bad luck to float away with the doll. To celebrate families will display porcelain dolls dressed in decorative robes to imitate the ancient imperial court.
M.S. celebrated this festival growing up in Japan and continued to celebrate it once she moved to the United Sates, but instead for her daughter and not herself anymore. She and my mom (M.S.’s daughter) participated because they thought it was fun and didn’t exactly believe the meaning that releasing the dolls down a river will get rid of their ”bad luck”.
I think the dolls are a form of both contagious and homeopathic magic because the dolls are supposed to mimic the girl making the doll, in order for any bad luck lingering around the girl to transfer to the doll. The girl creates the doll forming an instant connection which tricks the bad energy. As the doll floats down the river it imitates the negative energy attaching to the doll leaving the young girl. The holiday date is also important to note, as March 3rd is the third month of the year on the third day of the month. That is no coincidence as women and girls are a very important part of society, they need a special day. This day ensures that young girls are healthy enough to grow up and create the next generation.
Each new year E.F.’s family (usually the youngest members) eats 12 grapes under a table at midnight for good luck in the new year. During this time the women wear red underwear to find love in the next year. In addition the whole family would walk around their home with luggage to manifest traveling in upcoming year.
E.F. was introduced to her family’s Columbian New Years customs growing up. She told me, “ I understand why we do our New Year’s tradition, to bring luck or romance or travel into our lives during the new year. It’s like manifestation. But I’m not really sure why we eat 12 grapes under a table, that’s always confused me”.
I think the the 12 grapes represent either the 12 months of the year or the 12 disciples of Christ, since the tradition has Catholic Spanish roots. The grapes are eaten possibly because they are connected to wine and celebration, signifying good luck. Eating the 12 grapes under a table might be to focus on positive intentions when eating, getting in the right headspace. In my friend’s second tradition I can easily understand why the women specifically wear red underwear to attract love. Women’s colors are white, red, and black, and the color red symbolizes the romantic (reproductive) stage in a woman’s life. Red underwear especially emphasizes romance in a woman’s life. Finally my friend’s third new years custom imitates the action of traveling by pulling out the suitcases and walking around, simulating being on vacation. These are all examples of homeopathic magic, by having non physical ideas being represented by physical objects in order to imitate a desired outcome in the new year.
In the United States on St. Patrick’s day people are encouraged to wear green or else they’ll get pinched. It is thought that wearing green makes you invisible to leprechauns because they like to pinch anyone they can see. Also some people think wearing the color will bring good luck as green represents the Irish Nation.
Growing up in America K.L. would always be told to wear green on St. Patrick’s day or else he would get pinched by a leprechaun. He said, ” in actuality if I didn’t wear green one of my friends would probably pinch me and not an actual leprechaun. I never believed it was real but it was just fun to go along with the superstition”.
If I didn’t talk to K.L. I would have assumed that if people don’t wear green on St. Patrick’s day, others may interpret it as people not supporting Ireland. This being why people pinch one another if they don’t wear green on St. Patrick’s day. I also think the belief that a leprechaun pinches people who don’t wear green helped spread interest in Irish culture in the United States.
K.L. grew up in the United States and every birthday his friends and family presenting his birthday cake with sing to him and with lit candles on top of the cake. Most birthday songs he would often hear was, ” Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday to [name], happy birthday to you, and many more!”. And every time after the end of the song he would blow out his candles with a wish in mind, and would never tell anyone about the wish, or else it would not come true.
Every birthday celebration that K.L. went to growing up had people blowing out candles on a cake. He described, “I never really thought it was weird because everyone around me normalized it for me. But thinking about it now it does seem a little weird that we sing to a people on their birthday and they blow out candles on a cake”.
This is a form of homeopathic magic because the lit candles represent light and possibility of a wish. When a person blows out the candle the intention/ wish floats from the person’s mouth to the candle then into the universe with the smoke. The idea of a wish is transformed from a thought into physical form. The song and the candle also connect with the United States’ ideology of moving forward into the future, rather than reflecting on the past. The United States celebrates each new year looking forward for more. Wishing for something usually dose not involve the past but hopes for the future. This futuristic idea is often depicted in American pop-culture through movies and TV shows.