歳暮(せいぼ)【Seibo (a year-end gift)】

The word seibo literally means the end of the year, but it actually refers to gifts given at the end of the year. Seibo are generally given in mid-December. The custom of giving seibo began in the Edo period (1603 to 1867). Many people today still give seibo and chugen (midyear gifts). Seibo are usually called o-seibo just like chugen are called o-chugen to show respect for the person the gift is given to. We give o-seibo to people who help us including our bosses at our companies or places of work, matchmakers, private tutors, and teachers who helped us in our school days. Businesses and stores may also give o-seibo to their customers and the people they do business with. Many people have department stores or delivery companies deliver the gifts although it is more courteous to deliver the gifts in person. The most common gifts given today are liquors, groceries including cooking oils, coffees, and teas, and various commodities including soaps and detergents.

「歳暮」は本来、年の暮れを意味する言葉ですが、実際には年末の贈り物をさします。「歳暮」を贈る時期は、12月の中旬頃が一般的です。「お歳暮」を贈る習慣は江戸時代に始まり、夏の「お中元」とともに現在でも盛んに行われています。「お歳暮」を贈る相手は、「お中元」と同様に、日頃お世話になっている会社の上司、仲人をしてくれた人、習い事の先生、学生時代の恩師など様々です。企業や商店などから顧客や取引先に「お歳暮」が贈られる場合もあります。品物を贈る相手を直接訪問して手渡すのがもっとも丁寧な届け方ですが、デパートや宅配便に配達を委託する方法も盛んに行われています。贈る品物としては、酒類・食用油・コーヒー・紅茶などの食料品、洗剤・石けんなどの日用品が一般的です。デパートの商品券なども実用的で喜ばれます。

In addition, gift certificates issued by department stores are also very useful and are therefore becoming more popular. When we select gifts we consider both the price range and also what we think the person would like. We do not have to give gifts back to people who have given us seibo. If you receive a gift you can simply send a letter of thanks to the person who gave it to you. People originally gave seibo to express their appreciation for the kindness and assistance that they had received. Today, however, this custom has come to be performed as a mere formality.

これらの中から予算と相手の好みを考慮して、品物を選びます。贈られた「お歳暮」に対してお返しをすることは必ずしも必要ではありません。礼状を出すだけで十分な場合がほとんどです。「中元」と同様に「歳暮」を贈る習慣の本来の目的は、日頃お世話になっている人たちに感謝の意を表すことでした。しかしながら、この習慣は現在では単に儀礼的・形式的なものになりつつあります。

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