Setsubun festivities start today
In Japan today, Shinto followers, celebrate the 1st day of Spring according to he Old Calendar, Actually Setsubun literally means seasonal division, and the cultural associations and rituals closely resemble that of New Year, as it is associated to Lunar New Year, with a goal to cleanse the previous year as the start of a new season of spring, and its rituals have the purpose of casting away the bad fortune and evil spirits of the previous year.
Today’s main ritual ill be the Mamemaki, where soybeans are roasted and thrown out of the door, to cast away the evil spirits. Although there is an alternative, more liked by children, where a family member wears a mask of a demon while the rest throw the soy beans at the mask reciting rhymes to send the bad demons out to allow good fortune to enter. The soybean ritual can also be performed at the local shrines and temples adorned for the Spring festival. Interestingly enough, in Kyoto this day is also seen as a prosperous one for the debut of apprentice geishas to the public. The adorned temples set up displays and shows that attract people to the thousands and is a very happy day for the whole Shinto community.
In rural areas the celebrations can be more personal, such as eating ritual food while silently standing in the cardinal direction of the zodiac symbol of the year (as each sign is associated with one of the four cardinal points.
Another interesting ritual concerns creating small decorations resembling sardine heads and holly leaves at the household’s entrance that will stop any evil spirit from entering, and to then conclude the day by drinking ginger sake, especially brewed for this day.
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