J.K. Yamamoto did a great job in publicizing our JACL holiday party at the San Fernando Valley Community Center (12/17). Although it comes before Christmas, we call it the holiday party because we had people there of non-Christian faiths, as well as those having no religious affiliation.
What I like about the holiday season is that it brings out the best in people. People are in a good mood, and think about giving to others. It’s probably why we get so many pleas for donations in the mail.
Giving and receiving in our community is affected a lot by our culture. I know of people who do not like to receive gifts. Although they seem to enjoy giving gifts to others, they take no pleasure in receiving them. This seems a shame because this would deprive the gift-giver the satisfaction and pleasure of giving.
In thinking about this trait, it occurs to me that this attitude has its roots in our culture, which is based on obligation: A gift from someone means I have to return the favor to the giver. It does not take much to think about how this plays out in our culture.
Consider an event where someone is honored. The honoree commonly gives some sort of gift to those he/she knows who attend the event where he/she is being honored.
When someone passes away, the tradition is to bring a koden to the funeral, or to send it in the mail with a note of sympathy. A thank-you note for this koden is typically accompanied by postage stamps. Koden given by an institution to a bereaved family is usually reciprocated by the family with a return gift to the giving institution called a “koden-gaeshi.”
I have been told that at some Japanese weddings, in Japan, the newlyweds have gifts at the wedding ready to give to those attending the wedding, in anticipation of the gifts they will be receiving. In fact, in Japan, there are stores specializing in selling these kinds of gifts.
Christians can use as an example the words of Jesus, who said it is more blessed to give than to receive. There is no obligation here, but it has its reciprocity: If I give someone a gift, I receive a blessing from that act of giving.
Buying gifts for all the people in our lives is something, I have to admit, I leave to my wife, Marion. She does all the work in buying the gifts, and I share in the pleasure of giving them out.
What I enjoy most at Christmas is the coming together of people in our extended family I do not see earlier in the year. All things considered, I have to agree with the song that declares, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.”
Phil Shigekuni writes from San Fernando Valley and can be contacted at [email protected] The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.