Candle Night is a movement that encourages people to turn off electric lights and use candles instead to spend a nice, slow evening in a romantic atmosphere. Following the Voluntary Blackout movement that took place in Canada in 2001, the movement gradually spread around the world. In Japan, the first Candle Night event was held on the very day of the summer solstice in 2003.

Candle Night not only promotes the awareness of energy conservation but also allows people to relax by spending slow, quality time. It is all up to participants of the movement how they spend their Candle Night. You may enjoy chatting with family and friends or play musical instruments by candlelight. Or, alternatively, choose some aromatic candles to alleviate fatigue.

While Candle Night events may be held at different occasions, many supporters of the movement turn off the lights between 8pm and 10pm on the nights of the summer and winter solstices. The related events are also held at restaurants, shops, schools, temples and various other locations throughout the nation.

It only takes a candle and a relaxed mind to join the movement. The next global Candle Night happens on the day of the winter solstice, which falls on December 22, Japan time (December 21 on universal time) this year. Start your own Candle Night this time and be part of the global movement that has been supported beyond borders and cultures.

Oseibo is a traditional gift-giving custom in Japan. Sometime between early and mid-December, people send a year-end gift to someone from whom they have received support during the year and to whom they wish to show their gratitude in return. It is believed that this tradition originally began as a family ritual where people brought gifts to their ancestral or parents’ home to make offerings.

For oseibo gifts, it is customary to attach decorative, folded paper called noshi and red and white cords called mizuhiki when wrapping the gift. Although it is most polite for the giver to pay a visit to the recipient to deliver the gift and message of appreciation directly, many people use mail or delivery services today as it is especially difficult for most people to find time during the busy month of December. It is also fine to send an oseibo gift when either the giver or the recipient is in mourning (mochu).

You may wonder what would be good to send as an oseibo gift. While foods, detergents, and flowers are some of the all-time favorites for oseibo, anything is fine as long as the giver believes that the recipient will enjoy it. Among the exceptions are shoes, which can be associated with a word fumitsukeru (step on) and considered inappropriate. Stationary items and clocks should also be avoided because these items imply that the giver thinks the recipient should be working harder. If you are sending a gift to someone older than yourself, it is also better to avoid cash or gift certificates.

When you receive an oseibo gift from someone, you are not required to send a gift to the giver in return. However, it is always good to call or send a note to thank the giver as soon as possible.

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