February 3rd or 4th, depending on the year, is setsubun no hi in Japan. Setsubun literally means “season” 節 and “divide” 分. As we all know Japan has four very distinct seasons, which the Japanese really enjoy and show their appreciation through seasonal events, festivals and food. Setsubun no hi is one of those days used to celebrate the seasons. The word setsubun is used to describe the day before a new season, but today, only the day before the beginning of spring (risshun 立春) is celebrated. Now of course, who wouldn’t want to celebrate the arrival of spring, and the soon to blossom cherry blossoms. On setsubun no hi there is one main tradition, called mame maki 豆まき – a bean throwing ceremony. Families will fill a cup of roasted soybeans and throw them around the room and outside the window while shouting 「鬼は外！福は内！」oni ha soto! fuku ha uchi! This literally means “Demons outside! Good fortune inside!”. Therefore by performing this ceremony, it is believed to chase demons and all evil away, while bringing in good fortune and good health to the family. What makes this ceremony even more fun though is that someone in the house (usually the father) will dress up as a demon, and run around, while the others throw beans at them. Once you are done throwing the beans, to increase your good fortune, you must eat the same number of beans as your age. By doing so you will be rid of sickness for the whole year to come.
Another popular tradition is to eat ehoumaki 恵方巻き. But you can’t eat it anyway you like. First of all, make sure your ehoumaki has 7 ingredients in it, because 7 is a lucky number; make sure it is not cut, because that might “cut off” your luck; you must also eat it in the good fortune direction (this year it is east north-east), and finally, you must eat the whole ehoumaki in complete silence.
I’ve never celebrated setsubun no hi, but it sounds like a lot of fun! Perhaps I might buy myself an ehoumaki tomorrow ^^ Have you ever celebrated setsubun no hi? What was your experience like? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Rgrv7Gw4SU