Setsubun is a Japanese festival celebrated on February 3rd which is the day before the first day of spring. This festival generally precedes the Lunar New Year. Thus, it was also referred to as New Year’s Eve in the ancient ideal.
The Japanese celebrate this festival by throwing roasted soybeans outdoors to chase the naughty ogres or bad spirits (known as Oni) out of the home and bring happiness and good luck for the following year. For some families, the father is dressed up like an Oni and the family members throw roasted soybeans at him outside the house. While throwing beans, they shout, “Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!” which means Get out, Oni! Come in, Happiness! Everyone then eats the roasted soybeans as a treat – one for each year of their life plus one extra for the coming year. So a 5-year-old would get 6 beans to eat. They taste a little like roasted pumpkin seeds. The beans are sold in stores, which is convenient for those who don’t want to roast their own. They are packed in small pouches called Fuku Mame or Happiness Beans.
Another Japanese tradition observed at Setsubun is eating an entire maki sushi roll which is supposed to give good luck. Normally throughout the year, sushi rolls are sliced to make them easier to eat. But during this festival, they are served whole because slicing would mean cutting good fortune. While eating the roll, the person faces the lucky direction and remains completely silent. (The lucky direction changes each year.)
What is an Oni? An Oni is a naughty ogre-like creature that brings bad luck to a household. These Oni are either blue or red. They have two horns, carry a large iron club and wear a tiger skin loincloth. In the older days, the oni was depicted as scary and evil. But in recent years, it has toned down a bit since many fathers dress up as Oni for the bean throwing event and parades.
So here are some activities and art ideas for kids:
1) Oni Cup
2) Oni Paper Plate Mask
3) Bean Throwing