Q Why are gifts sent twice a year at midyear and at the year-end?

A The Japanese from long ago, have carried on with everyday life regarding the year to be divided into two parts. Seibo means the end of the year. The end-of-the-year custom and the New Year's custom of today are based on a ceremonial feast to pray for the repose of one's ancestors with relatives gathering and bringing food. As a vestige of this custom, perishables such as salmon and yellow tail are often chosen today as gifts.

Chugen (midyear) refers to July 15 according to the lunar calendar. Relatives also gathered on this day to partake of a meal to offer prayers to their ancestors. This evolved into the present day midyear and obon (a Buddhist festival of the dead) customs.

The same formalities are repeated during the vernal and autumn equinox during the first half and second half of the year which evolved from these ceremonies to pray forthe
repose of one's ancestors. A remnant of this custom obligates one today to be burdened financially twice a year with ochugen and oseibo.

The reason why this custom is now directed towards gifts to one's superiors and customers one regularly does business with is because it has become important to grease human relationships other than with one's relatives that the Japanese are confronted with socially, stemming from a shift from a society bound by patriarchy and a strict pecking order to one of the present based on individual affiliation.