Celebrating Japanese Setsubun in Canada
Demons out! Good Fortune In! This is what the Japanese festival Setsubun is all about!
Setsubun is an annual Japanese festival on February 3rd. This is the eve before Spring according to the Japanese lunar calendar. The Japanese traditionally believe that the spirit world is closest to our world on this day. As a result, it’s believed that strange things can happen such as demons appearing. source
When I lived in Japan, I celebrated Setstubun with my Japanese neighbours.
When cleaning up, I found some supplies I had kept, and decided we should have our very own Setsubun party at home in Canada.
This Japan Talk blog post does such a great job of explaining how Setsubun works.
One of the fun parts of this festival is a tradition called mamemaki, literally “bean throwing.” In households across Japan, one parent puts on a oni mask to scare the kids. Kids throw beans at them to scare them away.
One of the traditions of Setstubun is to eat a sushi roll with seven different ingredients, which is said to bring good luck.
You are also to eat facing that year’s lucky direction. This year, 2019, was East-Northeast. This direction goes on a 5-year cycle and you can find them all here.
We cheated a bit and made homemade sushi (but didn’t have 7 ingredients).
However, we did make sure we ate our first roll facing East-Northeast! Special thanks to our friend Emily who went along with the whole event!
After dinner was when the real fun began!
My husband, David, took the role of the Oni (demon) and put on our mask.
He then tried to scare and chase the kids around the house, while they shouted:
“Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!” (Demon out! Happiness in!)
As they do this, they throw dried beans at the demon to chase him out, and invite good luck. I happened to have some of the Setsubun beans leftover from my days in Japan, but you can also use shelled peanuts, too!
David wants it recorded that being hailed with peanuts and beans actually DOES hurt! But, he was a great sport.
In the end, there was a mess that the dogs enjoyed!
If you don’t want all the mess in the house, or don’t have an Oni, then you can use the same incantation and chuck the beans outside. It works just as well!
But, it was all worth it to welcome good fortune into our house, knowing we had shooed away the demons!
We capped the night off with a few rousing rounds of our new favourite game, Sushi Go!
What a great night to celebrate the Japanese festival of Setsubun, in our Canadian way! We can’t wait until next year!