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How to Celebrate Setsubun in English

Setsubun is a famous holiday in Japan to welcome spring! It is known for scaring away oni and welcoming good luck into the home.

What are oni?

For those who don't know, oni are ogre like demons that bring bad luck into the home. Oni are either blue or red in color and have two horns. They also carry a large iron club and wear tiger skin loincloths.

During on February 3rd children are given fuku mame or happiness beans, to throw and scare away the naughty oni. You are to shout, "Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!" which means Oni get out! Happiness come in!

Families also eat one whole sushi roll with out speaking while facing that years lucky direction. These rolls are also considered good luck. They are left uncut because that would break the good fortune they bring for the year.

How do we celebrate Setsubun using English?

A simple start is to continue what you would normally do for the holiday with your family. This year though try adding in English phrasing to help celebrate. For more additional fun try reading English books, do a craft, or sensory play activity that are oni related.

Our Playrooms Setsubun Festival

This year I have chosen Matthew Gollub's "Ten Oni Dummer" to read this year. It is a story about a little boy alone on a beach. He soon sees oni slowly coming out of the sand. The boy learns to see monsters as his friends because they chase away spooky dreams. It is a playful and rhythmic book, full of wonderful illustrations.

My son and I also did a oni craft out of toilet paper rolls. For this craft you need: colored markers or daubers, glue, scissor, yellow paper, black stickers or markers.

I chose to find cute oni faces to glue onto our oni but you can also just draw on a face. I like to round the tops of my paper rolls to help it look more like the round top of a head.

Some simple phrases:

  • "What color do you like?"

  • "I like red." "I like blue."

  • "Is your oni happy? Are they angry?"

  • "Can you stick the sticker?"

  • "Can you draw some stripes"

  • "Put glue here."

  • "Brush on the glue"

  • "Cut the paper."

  • "Is your oni scary or kind?"

  • "Color here please."

I also prepared a feed the oni sensory play activity and oni hide and seek.

For the sensory play I used a small bin and filled it with colored pompoms and mixed in some black colored noodles. The black noodles represent bad luck! You then feed them to the hungry oni in order for the bad luck to go away! A a spoon or kitchen tongs are great to use to catch the bad luck.

Two easy phrases to practice with this activity:

  • "Bad luck out!"

  • "Good luck stay!"

For hide and seek I took some cute full bodied oni and laminated them. I then tapped them up around the house to find. I prepared 4 little oni for this activity and we took turns hiding them around the house several times.

Simple phrases for this activity:

  • Hide the oni."

  • "Find the oni."

  • "It is under OOO."

  • "It is behind OOO."

  • "It is next to OOO."

  • "It is between OOO."

  • "Hint please."

  • "Are you ready?" "Yes, I'm ready." "No, not yet."

Remember you do not need to make your activities at home 100% English. You can choose simple activities and phrases so that you and your child can grow confidant and creatively together!

What is something you tried in your home for setsubun?

Let me know in the comments section below!

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