Sunday, February 5, 2012
On Friday night I enjoyed throwing beans out the door. Yes. I did. I have looked forward to Setsubun this year with particular relish.
Setsubun is a Japanese observance that I truly enjoy. February 3rd is said to be the beginning of spring. To prevent bad luck from coming to them, people participate in Setsubun observances. Shrines and temples generally have events in which someone dressed up as an Oni (commonly translated as devil, but a little different from the western concept. Monster works as well) is warded off by throwing beans at him. While throwing the beans people say "Oni wa soto. Fuku wa Uchi" meaning "Devil outside. Fortune come into our home." People born in the years corresponding with the current Chinese zodiac are invited to dress as the oni. (That would be you dragon year people.) Throwing soybeans at them (mamemaki) is thought to drive away bad luck.
While not everyone partakes in these activities, I enjoy them. This fact makes it all the more surprising that there are years I miss this celebration. At homes, especially those with children, people have their own mamemaki. Sets with masks and soybeans can be found for sale in most department stores in Japan. In my home we take turns being the oni and throwing beans. We have several masks from years past. Luckily, roasted soybeans can be found in the natural food sections of many grocery stores here in New England.
It's great fun to throw beans at each other. We follow the tradition of saving out some beans to eat. Each person eats the number of soybeans as their age. You can see one person here had to eat far more than the other.
Perhaps one of the reasons I love Setsubun is that it is simple. It doesn't require large amounts of preparation. Yet I find myself refreshed and ready for a new season. Setsubun's focus on banishing the bad speaks to me deeply this year.
New Year's, Chinese New Year and Setsubun - three chances to feel a fresh start this year.