Q. Do Americans give presents at the end of the year?


If there is an equivalent to Oseibo, it is the Christmas gifts one presents prior to December 25, but the gifts are not like the packaged assortments offered by stores in Japan. Companies usually give their employees a small gift, perhaps a gift certificate, a food package, a coupon for something from a gift catalogue, or the traditional frozen Christmas turkey for a big holiday meal. Managers might give clients gifts ranging from $30 to $60, and senior members of a firm might spend $100 on a gift to especially important clients and business relations. These might include gift certificates to a major department store, books, a bottle of Scotch whiskey, CDs, a leather–covered desk appointment pad, or a pen set.

Fellow employees may give one another cards and some small present, but it is unnecessary to spend much money. Some companies, and schools, use a “Secret Santa” arrangement in which each employee (or student) draws the name of another employee (or student) and prepares a gift to put under the communal Christmastree. The gift is anonymous, so no one knows who gave what to whom.

If you receive a gift and did not prepare to give that person a gift, you need not feel embarrassed. It is perfectly acceptable to wait until another occasion to take that person to lunch or give that person something on his or her birthday. It is not essential to make a “return gift” to everyone.

Christmas is also an opportunity to express your gratitude to those who render services to you throughout the year. It is nice to give a “Holiday Greetings!” card with $10 enclosed to your cleaning and laundry delivery person, your newpaper deliverer, your grocery deliverer, and your postman. If you have a regular garbage service, it would be nice to give the crew $10 each. The cost of such gifts is small, but the gift conveys the fact that you appreciate what they do for you.