Sunday, December 21, 2008

Oseibo and Ochugen

Oseibo is a custom of presenting a gift to an indebted person (co-workers, bosses, relatives, match maker, teachers, friends, etc…) at years end (usually between December first and December twentieth).

Ochugen is like Oseibo, except it is mid-year commonly given around July fifteenth. The celebration of Chugen maybe older than Oseibo. Ochugen comes from Taoism with July 15 being a ceremonial day of Taoism, it is also a day of Obon of Buddhism. The Taoism was gradually mixed with the Buddhism, and people came to distribute the gift to the vicinity and the close relative. That present was originally the one offered to the dead at Bon Festival. The old Chinese myth that made this a celebratory day in Taoism is about a god who was born on July 15. The god loved people and forgave their sins, people celebrated the god by setting a fire all day long and donating some gifts.

The most popular presents to give on Oseibo and Ochungen are Sanchokuhin. Sanchokuhin are items sent directly from the production shop or factory. Stores in Japan have made gift giving very easy, promoting Sancokuhin. The stores put up lots of displays and the customer then chooses the item/items they want and the store will have it delivered to any address in Japan. Generally the types of gifts are meat or fruits, dry food or kitchen items in bulk or basically anything that can be eaten or serves a practical purpose in any household. Generally the gift giver shouldn’t give decorative items or souvenirs. The reason for that, is so that if you get a gift that you don’t like or won’t use you can give it to someone else. Some housewives in Japan have made this passing on gifts into an art form, buying almost no presents instead give out the gifts they’ve received. Though they have to be careful to not give the same gift to the person they got it from.

It is thought that Oseibo, the year-end gift, is more important than Ochugen (midyear present). Part of the reason for this is that it coincides with company employees receiving a special bonus in addition to their monthly salaries. Average amount spent per gift is around 5000 yen (though this varies greatly on who your giving the gift to -bosses tend to be given better gifts, how obligated you feel to the person, your budget, etc…)

Oseibo and Ochugen gifts are usually wrapped in noshi (pictured above).

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