Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Demons Out...Luck In

The plum (ume) blossoms pictured above have arrived in Japan, heralding the start of spring. I know, it seems a bit early to be thinking of the end of winter...but February 3 is the official start of spring in Japan. I'm just a guest, so if the indigenous folk say winter is over...GREAT. It's done. Finished in my mind. I am sooo past that winter thing.

February 3 in Japan is Setsubun, a celebration that marks the end of winter and the beginning of spring. People scatter roasted soybeans around houses, shrines and temples to bring good luck. They also pelt the Oni (red or blue devils) with the beans to get rid of the evil winter spirits. Traditionally, the male head of the household has the honor of mamemaki (bean scattering) but nowadays children oftentimes go to their grandparents' house to act out this ritual.

A family member wanders around the house saying, "Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!"(Demons out! Luck in!), while somebody dressed as the Oni tries to evade the bean lashing. Of course, he fails miserably. Then each person has to eat the same number of beans as their age, PLUS one. (I guess we all could use a little extra luck.)

(Quiz time: Is this wacky tradition Shinto or Buddhist in origin? The first three correct answers will receive one free, slightly opened packet of roasted soybeans. Hurry while supplies last.)

Somewhere in this crazy ritual, a benevolent fat lady figures in as well as the need to eat giant sushi rolls (Maki sushi) while pointing towards this year's lucky compass direction. My class informed me that it's ENE this year. So for crying out loud, don't screw this up at home by pointing WSW...

My eyebrows must have asked, Huh?, because my class shrugged their shoulders, basically indicating, just cuz. Alrighty then. Just cuz works for me. I find, after all, that it's best not to subject shy ancient traditions to the bright, withering glare of logic. (Try explaining Groundhog Day to a foreigner. )

Afterall, a little mystery makes life so much more fun.

P.S. I knew I had a sleep number but I was completely unaware I might have a lucky compass direction. I think mine is NSW. Which explains everything.


Mrs. M said...

*gasp*! The blossoms on the top of your blog are so lovely! I've been reading in Google Reader, and missed them entirely.

I think you sent me a FB friend request, and I'd love to add you, but wanted to let you know that the page I really use is under Diana Fright McCullough, rather than Mrs. M.

Charlotte said...

This tickles me to NO END that Mrs M and Big Harmony are friends on fb.

Some day, not too far in the future, but when I am a little more grown up (or maybe just a little closer to everyone), I'd like to have a party where all my friends drink wine and say funny things to each other face to face. I think this happens all the time in virtual-world, so it will be nice to taste and see :)

I love you ladies!

Nancy B said...

Charlotte, you name the time and place and I'll be there--red wine in hand and bells on. Miss you!