Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Outside looking in . . . Holiday Gifts

*Note - This is the first article in what I hope will be a series, looking at Canadian and North American culture through examining other cultures' traditions, actions, behaviours and events.

The Japanse are masters of gift giving. Whether it be a small gift presented when you are meeting someone or visiting someone or returning from a trip, in many ways, it has been broken down into a science.

At this time of year, another tradition arises: oseibo (Oh-say-bo). This is the traditional Japanese New Year's gift. Given to people you have interacted with over the previous year, its a way of thanking them, or to repay someone for their help throughout the year. This is also a way of showing how you value a relationship, and in the largely structured Japanese gift market, the value is easily calculated.

But this brings me a little closer to home. It seems to be more and more customary these days to give small gifts to people you work with, teachers, acquaintances, customers, suppliers, etc. as a way to show that you "value" the relationship.

This leads me to a question. Do gifts lose their meaning when they become standardized or expected as part of the relationship, or do they show the value of the relationship because you felt that you should have given a gift?

Maybe both?


No comments: