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Chicago Snowstorm 2011: Chase out the Winter Demons with your kids!

Chasing away the Chicago snowstorm 2011 with SetsubunPunxsutawney Phil may not have seen his shadow this morning, but those living in Chicago don’t seem to be seeing any signs of an early spring!  This morning snow levels in Chicago reached 19 1/2 inches, making this the third largest snowstorm in Chicago’s history.  This has no doubt left many a parent stuck at home with kids who are quickly getting cabin fever.  But never fear!  This provides the perfect opportunity to teach your kids about another culture’s foods and traditions while keeping them entertained and having fun.

Tomorrow, February 3rd, is Setsubun in Japan.  This Japanese festival celebrates the coming of spring.  Each year people gather to ward off evil spirits and invite good fortune into their lives.  Why not turn the frustrating situation of being snowbound in Chicago (or wherever you may be!) into a fun day of chasing out the evil winter spirits and giving spring a bit of encouragement with your own Setsubun party? Your kids may have so much fun that you’ll end up turning this into a family tradition!

Throw Your Own Setsubun Party

1. Decorate: On the night of Setsubun it is traditional to decorate a tree in front of your house with the head of a sardine, a clove of garlic, or an onion.  These objects are meant to keep away the oni (demons) as Spring approaches.  While you may not want to hang a sardine head in front of your house, you could always have your kids draw these items to put up somewhere outside!

2. Make oni (demon) masks: There is a great free printable from KF Studio (click on the green PDF link to the right of the mask picture to download).  The kids could also design their own masks using paper plates.

3. Mame-maki (bean-throwing ceremony): This is a tradition that kids always love.  Choose someone to be the demon (it’s even more fun if this is a surprise). Have the demon come into the room wearing a demon mask.  The kids then toss roasted soy beans at the demon while chanting “Oni wa soto, Fuku wa uchi!” (“oh-knee wah sew-toe, foo-koo wah oo-chee!”), meaning “Demons out! Luck in!”  If you don’t have roasted soy beans on hand, use peanuts!  After the demon has been sufficiently scared away, everyone eats one soy bean for each year of their life (though in some areas they eat one additional bean to bring in good luck for the year to come).  It is believed that this protects you against sickness during the coming year.

4.Make and play the Ogre Repelling Game: This free printable from Canon’s Creative Park includes a set of printable targets that can be used for bean throwing practice.

5. Learn the “Oni no Pants” (“The Ogre’s Underwear”) Song: This is a popular children’s song and the words will crack your kids up.  Hiragana Mama has a great post about oni that includes a video of the song and a translation of the lyrics.

6. Make and eat futomaki (“fat” sushi rolls): If you are feeling adventurous, you can try your hand at making futomaki, a sushi roll traditionally eaten on Setsubun.

7. Make monster cookies: Although not a Japanese tradition, this is the perfect opportunity to make monster cookies!  Then kids can literally eat the demons!  Plus, a good cookie is likely to turn any of your own little snowbound demons back into happy children.

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