Happy 2020 and happy lunar new year! I hope your new decade is off to a great start.
My home country of Japan celebrates the new year on the Gregorian calendar (January 1st), but a tradition timed with the “old” (lunar) calendar remains. Setsu-bun is a celebration of day before spring, a lunar New Year’s Eve if you will, usually around February 2nd. The day is marked by performing rituals to drive away evil spirits because they were thought to be most active during change of seasons.
Mame-maki (Bean scattering)
So, how do we keep our homes safe from evil spirits? By harnessing the power of roasted soybeans! We go from room to room throwing handfuls of the stuff while chanting, “Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi! (Ogre out! Luck in!)” Ogre in this case is the evil to be driven out. Some families make it fun by having an adult can wear an ogre mask. The ogre around the house while kids chase the ogre around throwing roasted soybeans, literally driving evil out of the house. (Parenting can be thankless, I know). After this ritualistic bean scattering, we finish by eating the roasted soybeans, one for each year of life plus one more.
(Last but not least, we put everyone to work and clean up the scattered beans.)
Eho-maki (Lucky direction roll)
Eating a futo-maki (fat sushi roll) while facing the lucky direction (determined by the Chinese zodiac for the year) on Setsu-bun is a regional tradition that became popular nationwide recently. This year’s lucky direction is southwest, around 255 degrees on your compass app.
The futo-maki should contain seven different fillings to symbolize the seven lucky gods of Shinto. Think of your goals for the year and eat the entire roll while facing the lucky direction. You don’t want to cut the roll because you don’t want to cut your fortunes short.
How’s that for a vegan and gluten-free friendly seasonal meal?
How to make a sushi roll
Wishing you a year full of good fortunes!