Japan’s population is not Christian, so only a relatively small segment of the population celebrates Christmas. However, people exchange gifts at the end of the year. The gifts, called oseibo, are different than in the U.S. While we exchange jewelry and clothes and books, Japanese people often give consumables. Some of that has to do with their small houses and limited storage space, but some of it is simply tradition. For example, giving soba symbolizes long life (think: long noodles) and certain types of fish symbolize various attributes such as health or success. The type of gift and the cost of it depends on the relationship of the giver and receiver. Traditionally people give the most expensive gifts to their bosses. These gifts can be ordered and sent, or given in person, but since it’s such a common practice, stores go out of their way (even convenience stores!) to make it easy. Here are a number of photos from the food co-op I use, called PAL system, that shows the elaborate gifts available for me to send to co-workers, friends and neighbors – all of them consumable and each one more elaborate than the next.
Think of some of these items when making decisions regarding your own holiday list! Hope it’s a great one for you.