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Cyber Book Cafe

You can count on it: Coffee and tea are brewing 24-7 at the Carlock Book Café. But you never know what fantastic things you may come across when you stop by! We will bring you something unique each month. So make the Carlock Cyber Book Café a place you often visit virtually, and in person.

Cream and Sugar

Cream and Sugar

Special of the Month:
Eric Kotani Interview

Read the interview

Eric Kotani, is a remarkable man. Born in Japan, he has been working at NASA for 44 years! Link to the guest's Homepage

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December 2009
Flavor of the Month:

O-Seibo (お歳暮)
The Japanese Gift Giving Tradition

December is indeed a busy month in Japan. It is sometimes called Shiwasu (師走), when everyone, even Buddhist monks—who are usually calm—dash about trying to get everything done before the New Year.

One of the things we Japanese have on our to-do list at this time is the gift giving tradition called O-Seibo (お歳暮). This is quite different from the Christmas gift exchanges in the United States. It is a way of displaying gratitude among adults. Usually younger adults send gifts to older adults in appreciation of the care and guidance extended to them earlier in the year. For instance, parents and the oldest brother receive gifts from younger siblings. Ikebana students buy gifts for their instructors. A young couple, who became married through the O-miai (お見合い)—the formal “arranged marriage” ceremony—visits their go-betweens with a gift. This is a time to show appreciation to those who have supported them.

As a child I used to deliver boxes of gifts to uncles and aunts on behalf of my parents. Each gift was wrapped in a furoshiki (風呂敷), a piece of square cloth that comes in all colors and fabrics. I did not like doing it. But I didn’t mind getting tips from my relatives, who made sure to give me some walking-around money for delivering the gift. For example, I entered my uncle’s house to hand over a gift box of 2000 yen, and I came back with 500 yen in my hand. It was more like a bonus than a tip for an 11-year-old girl. By making deliveries to several relatives, I could make a sizable amount of money quickly. Only children had the privilege of receiving money. Once I reached working age, the luck ended. Besides, stores soon started overnight shipping services. Parents didn’t need kids’ help any longer.

O-Seibo starts in early December, and ends usually by December 25th. Traditionally, people chose food items as O-Seibo gifts. But gift coupons have gained popularity in recent years. The talk of O-Seibo reminded me of sending a couple of boxes of goodies to my mother and eldest sister in Japan. Being the youngest of the family, I am of course on the giver’s side.

More about furoshiki at Wikipedia.

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