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In Japan, there are two seasons in which gifts are often given, one in the summer, and the other, the winter. The gifts are referred to as o-chugen and o-seibo, which represents your appreciation and gratitude towards the kindness they have shown you during that year, and can be given to anyone you know at all.
The custom of giving o-chugen is said to originate from ancient China, where three days would be used to give offerings to the gods. The chugen, one of the three days, happens to be on the same day for the Japanese where gifts were offered to their ancestors. Eventually, the exchanging of gifts was made into a new custom of o-chugen, where gifts were given during summer.
O-seibo, on the other hand, refers to the end of the year. The custom was for married daughters to visit their parents, or extended families would visit the head of the family. They would bring offerings to welcome their ancestors’ spirits on New Year. However, people later also made visiting the people whom have helped them during the year as a form of gratitude to become part of the custom. Nowadays, people give gifts as their gratitude towards the help they received.
The traditional gifts from Japan used for the purpose of this custom would be food or daily commodities like beer, canned food, or seasoning. There are some gifts that are not encouraged to be given as gifts are shoes which suggest being stepped on, and watches or writing utensils which suggests one to be encouraged to be diligent. However, regardless of whether they are traditional gifts from Japan or something else, it is best to give the receiver something they would like.
As the tradition is to show gratitude towards those who have supported you, it is only polite to give a gift as well if you receive any. That is why the beginning and the end of the year will be a busy season of giving.
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