Happy Setsubun!

Happy setsubun!  One of my new year's resolutions, along with continuing to keep up with my Japanese, is to learn more about Japanese culture and traditions that I can celebrate and practice in my own household.  Setsubun, which literally means "seasonal division," is the day before the beginning of spring in Japan, according to the Japanese lunar calendar.  In its association with the lunar new year, it can be and was previously thought of as a sort of New Year's Eve, and so was accompanied by a special ritual to chase away evil spirits of the former year to let luck in for the coming year.

To celebrate setsubun, Japanese throw roasted soybeans either out the door or at a member of the family wearing a demon mask (usually the head of the household) and shout, "Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!" meaning "Demons out! Good luck in!"  This tradition is called "mamemaki" ("bean scattering").  As the beans are thrown, it is believed good luck is invited in and bad luck is driven out.  Afterwards, it is customary to eat the same number of roasted soybeans as your age for good luck in the year to come.