Wagashi is an integral component of many traditional Japanese festivals and events. Here are a few examples.
The wagashi of choice for the New Year’s event is hanabira mochi (petal mochi), named after a ceremonial dish traditionally served to the imperial court at the beginning of the year. It symbolizes hopes for the family’s health and happiness in the coming year.
Hishi mochi (diamond-shaped mochi) and hina arare (small, colored rice crackers) are prepared for the Doll Festival (Girls’ Day) each March 3, when families customarily display imperial dolls on platforms along with offerings of traditional sweets and pray for the health of their young daughters.
Sakura mochi (cherry-blossom mochi) appears during the cherry-blossom season in late March and April. Along with the age-old custom of cherry-blossom viewing, the Japanese enjoy seasonal wagashi wrapped in pickled cherry leaves or fashioned to resemble their beloved sakura.
On the Boys’ Festival of May 5, it is customary to eat chimaki, sweets wrapped in bamboo leaves, and kashiwa mochi, a kind of wagashi wrapped in the leaf of a Japanese oak (kashiwa). The oak, which keeps its leaves until new ones sprout in the spring, symbolizes each household's prayer for continuity and unfading prosperity.
The Japanese traditionally mark the winter solstice in late December by taking a bath with yuzu (Japanese citron) floating in the water to ward off disease and misfortune. Japanese confectioners mark the occasion with wagashi incorporating the fragrant yuzu.