Oseibo & Ochugen – the Gifts for Giving Thanks
Oseibo and Ochugen are the two important gift giving ceremonies existing in Japan. It is a practice of giving some gifts to elders to thank them for the kindness they have shown to us.
Seibo is the word meaning year-end. During the end of every year, that is by mid-December, Japanese used to send gifts to their family members, teachers, doctors, etc. Anyone to whom they want to express their gratitude. Heads of companies and their customers will be exchanging gifts among them during this time. In the earlier days, Oseibo was meant for offering gifts to the ancestral gods. People used to offer edibles to their dead ancestors at their grave and distribute them to others. This practice later developed into what is seen now.
Ochugen is the gift giving tradition in Japan during the summer season. It is done the first week of July. Mainly giving to parents and other close relatives, Ochugen is a custom to show our care for them during this time. As it is in summer, this day of thanksgiving means that we are praying for their good health in the hot season. These gifts given after the firsy July half, is known as Shochuoukagai.
Usually, gifts selected for Oseibo ad Ochugen are edibles like noodles, beverages, coffee, fish products, etc. As Ochugen is given during the summer season, somen noodles are a good gift choice. Goods like detergents, soaps etc. are also selected. We can see a dedicated area in every supermarket that sell the gifts of Oseibo and Ochugen. Mizu-yokan is another important item among the Ochugen gifts. It is a sweet made from red bean paste.
Selection of Gift
Most people send such gifts to their family members or other important persons in their life to whom they are indebted to. During early days, people used to buy a gift and wrap it in a nice way and visit the person while presenting it. But nowadays, some shops and companies are having options to carry the selected gift item to the person as per our requirement. This kind of gift is known as Sanchokuhin. The producers or shops will wrap the gift and carry the good to the given address on the day we want to present it. Mostly the gifts will cost from 2000 yen onwards. There will be a paper with writing Oseibo or Ochugen on the top of every gifts. This paper is called Noshi with some mizuhiki knot on it (usually picture).
As Japanese always care about elders and other people to whom they are indebted to, this gift giving practice is still done by almost everyone and the range of people to whom it is given is also widening. There are times when some people will be confused about selecting an appropriate gift for each person. Even though edibles are always considered a good choice, there are people who couldn’t eat some specific items or some who don’t love everything. Even among the Japanese, some rare people consider this as a burden to send gifts to many people twice a year.