So yesterday was Hina Matsuri in Japan.
Hina Matsuri, is referred to as both "Doll Festival" or "Girl's Day" in English, and no, not because of any sexist business about girls liking dolls. The festival is held to pray/hope for the healthy and happy upbringing of female children, and the dolls represent the Japanese Imperial Court, in traditional Heian dress.
The dolls are believed to be able to contain bad spirits, which leads us to today's bit of trivia.
Today many younger Japanese families don't keep up with this practice. About half of the female students in my classes report that their households don't set up the dolls. A handful find the dolls themselves creepy and weird.
But the families who do still have a set of dolls that they display, usually keep one set year round, putting them out for the festival, and taking them down soon after.
The original tradition, still practiced widely, is called "hina-nagashi," in which straw dolls were placed on a boat and set afloat on a river, carrying the bad spirits away with them. In modern cases where putting a bunch of straw and wood in a publicly or commercially used river is not a good idea, some shrines send the dolls out to sea, collect them, bring them back in, and burn them.
I suspect that the families who re-use the often expensive dolls instead of burning them or sending them away, hope that a year in the closet between use will give them time to digest the "troubles" that they are supposed to absorb. But the knowledge that you're NOT supposed to keep them around may live on in a popular superstition. It's one that I just learned about this year, and it inspired the entire post: If you don't put away your Hina Dolls in a timely manner, you won't be able to marry off your daughters!
The origins of this superstition seem pretty old, but from what I've found online, it seems like they have their roots in two places. The first is just what I said above. Moving your troubles into the dolls doesn't help you any if you keep them around after. The second is more interesting for fans of words.
It's kind of a play on the multiple meanings of the word 片付く(かたづく； katazuku), which can made into the transitive verb 片付ける、meaning "to clean up," or "put in order" which is what you have to do to the dolls. But it can also mean "to be married off," which is what you can do with your daughters, if you clean up the dolls on time!