Setsubun

What: The "bean-throwing ceremony," marking the day before spring by the lunar calendar.

When: February 2nd or 3rd

Setsubun

Commonly known outside of Japan as the bean throwing-festival, Setsubun is held February 2nd or 3rd each year. During Setsubun, one member of the family (normally the father) will dress as an oni, or demon, and the rest of the family throws roasted beans at the oni to drive away evil spirits. Beans are also thrown outside the home at demons that may be lurking while they chant oni wa soto! or “Demons, out!” Later, they throw beans inside the home to collect good fortune, while chanting fuku wa uchi, or “Good luck, in!” The bean-throwing tradition is also carried out at shrines and temples around the country and draw large crowds.

The origins of this tradition are believed to have come from China, who would drive away demons and bad spirits with an exorcism ceremony or from a Chinese holiday. In the 1930s, the traditions followed had a bit more rules, where each person would throw the number of beans corresponding with their age, and men wearing lion’s head masks would perform the bean-throwing ceremony in the houses of each village.

Calendar History

Since Setsubun is the day before the first day of spring (Risshun) by the lunar calendar, the date varies from year to year. Spring was considered the beginning of the year, so in a way Setsubun was an ancient New Years Eve. The year was divided into periods (like months) of 14 or 15 days, each being a weather period. Setsubun was the end of the Great Cold, or Daikan.

Since this holiday is based on the lunar calendar, the day is not constant. In 1932, for example, Setsubun was on February 4th, though this year, 2006, it was February 3rd.