February 3, 2012

Celebrating the Japanese Festival SETSUBUN

Today we celebrated Setsubun “The Bean Throwing Festival” with our dear Japanese friend Nina and her mother Mie. Setsubun is the celebration of the beginning of Spring in Japan and many families perform “mamemaki” a ritual to cleanse away all the evil of the former year, drive away all the evil spirits for the year to come, bringing good luck to all. The ritual consists in throwing baked soybeans on the head male of the household wearing and Oni mask.  As we were in school we invited the head of our school to be Oni and he gladly agreed.

We said in Japanese “Oni wa soto, Fuku wa uchi”, which means go away bad luck, welcome good luck!

I talked to the students about the meaning of Setubun, we wrote on the white board the words that we were going to say and discussed their meaning. Nina taught us how to pronounce them properly. It also happened that O was the letter of the week and we discovered that Oni, ogre and origami all start with ‘O’. What a great coincidence.

Nina’s mother who is very skilled in origami is making one origami for each letter of the alphabet! And she made the “oni” for the letter ‘O’ that you see on the left side of the white board in our classroom.

Nina’s father made this wonderful Oni mask.

Each student received a bowl with soybean seeds to throw on Oni.

We went to the playground and Oni was there!
 Nina said the words in Japanese and we repeated them

and threw the beans at the ogre.  And then, in accordance with the ritual, Oni went away.

After that we were supposed to eat one soybean for each year of our lives. As the children are very young Nina’s mother thought the beans might upset their stomachs so she brought some Japanese sweets for them instead.

Now we will all have good luck in the coming year!
Thanks Nina and Mie for sharing with us such a wonderful tradition!

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