February is an important month in Japan, where there are three major special events celebrated: Setsubun, Kenkoku-Kinenbi and Valentine’s Day. Each has its own set of traditions and rituals associated with the holiday.
Setsubun, or the Bean-Throwing Festival, is celebrated on February 3rd. It is traditional for people to throw dried soybeans and chant in order to drive away demons of misfortune and thus allow prosperity to enter one’s life and family. It is the equivalent of “Spring Cleaning” in Western cultures. Men often wear masks representing these bad-luck demons or cherubs of bad fortune, as family members throw beans at them to ward them off. Another custom at Setsubun is to eat the number of soybeans corresponding to your own age for good luck.
Kenkoku-Kinenbi is a national Japanese holiday that commemorates the founding of the nation. This holiday is one of the major holidays in Japan. People show their patriotism by raising the Japanese flag at their gates. Kenkoku-Kinenbi is celebrated on February 11.
Valentine’s Day is a popular event in Japan. The traditions in Japan have one main difference from that in the West: in Japan, women give chocolate to men instead of the other way around. Women also often give out giri-choco or “obligation chocolate” to coworkers, bosses or male friends. They stress the word “giri” to emphasize that there is no romantic feeling associated with the gift. There’s been some new Valentine’s Day customs popping up in recent years. One is called gyaku-choco, or ”reverse chocolate”, meaning chocolates are given to women by men. Also, tomo-choco “friendship chocolate” is becoming popular amongst Japanese girls, where chocolates are given to female friends.
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