Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
In Japan, Setsubun (節分) is the day before the beginning of each season. The name literally means "division of season". Usually the term refers to the Spring Setsubun, properly called Risshun (立春), celebrated yearly on February 3rd (associated with the Lunar New Year).
Spring Setsubun is traditionally celebrated by the head of the household throwing pan-heated soybeans out the door, while chanting "Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!" (鬼は外! 福は内!). The literal meaning of the words is "Demons out! Luck in!" -- the beans are thought to symbolically purify the home. In the Heian era, a famous Buddhist monk was said to have driven away Oni (demons or evil spirits) by throwing beans.
At Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines all over the country, there are celebrations for Setsubun. Priests and invited guests will throw roasted soy beans (some wrapped in gold or silver foil), small envelopes with money, sweets, candies and other prizes. In some bigger shrines, even celebraties and sumo wrestlers will join. Many people will come, and the event turns wild, with everyone pushing and shoving to get the gifts tossed from above.
Families will also put up small decorations of fish heads and holly leaves on their house entrances so that bad spirits will not enter.
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