Gabriella Hewitt

Friday, February 3rd, 2012
Demons Out! Luck In!


Happy Setsubun! You are probably wondering what I am talking about, so let me explain. One of the beautiful things about living or being exposed to another culture are all that various festivals that often revolve around ancient practices, legends or mythologies.

February 2nd is Setsubun in Japan. Think of it as the day before Spring officially starts (regardless of the weather or Punxsutawney Phil’s prediction). In the past, when Japan followed a lunar calendar (like the Chinese calendar) the start of spring often coincided with the start of a new year. So, Setsubun became something of a New Year’s Eve, a day in which to purify the home.

On this day, people may visit a temple or shrine (and yes, they are different. Temples are Buddhist; shrines are Shinto) and take part in ceremonies there. But often, people will simply by roasted soy beans to bring home. At their house they will take the soybeans and while chanting, “Demons Out! Luck In!” (Oni wa soto, Fuku wa uchi), they will throw the soybeans outside. Sometimes, a member of the family might wear a demon mask and the others will throw the soybeans at him to chase him away.


I remember when my middle son was in kindergarten. The head teacher and the principal of the kindergarten dressed up as demons and went to the elementary school for a celebration there. They returned to the kindergarten and passed a classroom that I and other mothers were working in. We had our smallest children with us. My youngest was around 2. As the third son, he was a tough little guy, who loved watching all these hero/action shows. But when he saw those two with the demon masks on, he took one look, his face crumpled and he started crying. Honestly, it was really funny at the time, even as I was so surprised by his reaction. Guess TV bad guys weren’t so scary.

The idea behind Setsubun. is to wipe away the evil of the previous year (lunar calendar, remember?), along with any disease-bringing evil for the new year, and invite good luck into the home.

Today, as well, some people will eat the number of soy beans that represents their age for good luck. I’m thinking those are more beans than I want to count. ;-)

***Cross-posted at***

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