Kicking off February with Setsubun-sai, listed on the Interfaith Calendar as a Shinto holiday. While researching the holiday it seems to be celebrated very widely in Japan but is not a national holiday. While researching this holiday I came across sites saying it is a New Years Eve tradition but also found that the holiday is celebrated before the first day of Spring or planting season. The reason this holiday caught my eye was the tradition of people throwing roasted soy beans as a symbol of getting out the evil spirits and inviting in good fortune. This ritual is known as mamemaki. The toasted soybeans called fuku mame are said to entrap evil spirits of the previous year, so throwing them out of the house or at an oni (devil) will help cast out the bad and usher in the good for the coming year. When throwing the roasted soybeans it is tradition to shout "oni-wa-soto" (which means "get out demons") and "fuku-wa-uchi" ("come in happiness".)
So of course the plan was roasted soybeans for this holiday- but without running to the Asian speciality store I was not lucky enough to find them in our local grocery store. So we substituted our microwave friendly frozen edamame. A tradition of eating a bean for each year of life plus one extra is supposed to bring good luck in the year ahead. Another food tradition for this holiday is eating fortune sushi rolls called eho-maki. So in addition to our edamame we made our own eho-maki. Eho-maki traditinally has seven fillings rolled in. These are shiitake mushrooms and kanpyo, cucumber, rolled omelet, eels, sweet fish powder, and freeze-dried tofu. These ingredients represent good health, happiness, and prosperity, and the rolling means good fortune. We didn't have all the ingredients on hand, nor do my children care for them all so we tweaked ours to our taste.
The sushi rice recipe that I always use can be found here. I usually use a little less sugar then the recipe calls for.
- prepared sushi rice
- roasted seaweed for rolling sushi in
- whatever filling you wish for your sushi (we used crab, salmon, cucumber, and avocado)
- lay out a seaweed and place rice on top
- flatten out rice but leave a two finger space on one side so that the sushi can be sealed when its time to roll.
- add ingredients
- enjoy! We used a little soy sauce for dipping.
For our craft we made masks that were inspired by the idea of an Oni mask. The Oni were originally invisible spirits or gods which caused disasters, disease, and other unpleasant things. I thought we could make the masks and throw the beans at each other as oni. However the boys made some pretty happy looking masks, so instead we tried to throw the beans into each other's mouths (as if my children needed any help making a giant mess at meal time.)
Both big boys decided to use the yellow crayon as the main decoration for their masks, which does translate into beautiful photos. However they had a good time making their masks, we ate a delicious meal, and learned a little about Setsubun-sai!