In Japan, February 3rd is known as Setsubun. It is the day before the first day of spring which is called Risshun. In America, the first day of spring is celebrated on March 20th, the vernal equinox, But in many parts of Asia, it is celebrated on February 4th, the midpoint between the vernal equinox and the winter solstice. Actually, there are four setsubun each year, one for each season, but it is the spring setsubun that gets all the attention. According to the old lunar calendar, the first day of spring was also the first day of the new year, so the spring setsubun was a kind of new year’s eve festival. It was a time to cleanse away any bad luck(or spirits) of the old year and usher in good luck for the new year.
There are celebrations at shrines and temples all over Japan. Priests and invited guests will stand on a platform and throw roasted soybeans wrapped in colorful foil, candy, money, and other prizes onto the crowd. At bigger temples, they have celebrity guests like sumo wrestlers. The temples are decorated in traditional festive colors of red and white. The atmosphere can get rather wild with people trying to catch the prizes, just like the throwing of beads from floats during Mardi Gras.