Introducing Chugen Festival—How to Celebrate It and the Japanese Sweets Perfect for Gifts
Have you ever heard of the event called “Chugen”? It is one of the traditional customs from China. In Japan, we call it "Ochugen," and it is a common practice to give gifts to those who have taken care of us during this time.
In this blog post, we will explain how “Chugen,” an important event in Greater China is celebrated, and introduce some Japanese sweets that are ideal for gifts.
How about giving Japanese sweets as gifts to relatives, friends, and those who have been kind to you as you celebrate ”Chugen” this summer?
What Is the Chugen Festival and How Do People Celebrate it?
Chugen (July 15th on the lunar calendar) is the birthday of "the Lord Emperor of the Earthly Realm," also known as the Emperor of the Underworld. On this day, it is believed that the gates to the underworld open, and the spirits of our ancestors return.
In China, it is also considered a day when all the souls of the dead and evil spirits wander. Customs vary depending on the region, such as making offerings and floating lanterns to appease the spirits.
Chugen has been passed down for generations as a traditional event in China. We will explain in detail how people in Greater China celebrate, and the various customs related to this occasion are practiced.
1. Floating Lanterns, Making Offerings and Burning Incense
During Chugen, people light lanterns and float them along the river upon nightfall. It is believed that the light from these lanterns illuminates the path for the returning spirits of the deceased.
In addition, offerings of fruits and drinks are prepared in front of houses to welcome the spirits of the ancestors. Incense is lit and prayers are offered to ensure the safe return of the spirits and souls without getting lost.
2. Burning Joss Paper and Paper Boat (Housen)
In China, there is a custom of burning joss paper (spirit money made of paper) when visiting Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples or making offerings to ancestors. The paper money is believed to serve as money for the afterlife, and when burned by descendants in the present world, it is thought to reach their ancestors in the afterlife.
Also, in the teachings of Buddhism, carrying people to the Pure Land of Perfect Bliss is likened to a ship called “Housen” (Dharma Ship). Some regions still have the custom of burning paper-made Dharma Ships during Chugen.
3. Sending Gifts
During the Chugen season, people used to purchase many things as gifts for their ancestors. It is said that over time, this custom had become a tradition of giving gifts to relatives and friends instead.
Eventually, Chugen was introduced to Japan and has now become “Ochugen,” a time when people send gifts such as sweets to those who have been kind to them or to their relatives.
What is “Ochugen” in Japan that originated from “Chugen”?
The Japanese “Ochugen" was introduced from China's Chugen. And its custom of giving gifts to ancestors has taken root in Japan as “Ochugen,” a way to express gratitude to those who have taken care of you at work, or to relatives.
The timing for “Ochugen” gifts is from early July to mid-August. In Japan’s Kanto region, it is typically from early July to around July 15th, while in the Kansai region of western Japan, it is from mid-July to around August 15th, varying depending on the region.
As a “summer greeting,” hand-delivering gifts to people’s homes is considered the formal way to honor this custom. However, in recent years, gifts are often sent by mail.
Various reasons contribute to this, such as the recipient living far away, making it difficult to visit in person, or simply scheduling issues.
Whether making a visit or sending the gift by mail, what’s important is to express your sincere gratitude to the recipient.
Introducing Japanese Sweets Perfect for Gifts!
Whether it’s the Chugen in Greater China or Ochugen in Japan, sweets are always a good choice for gifts.
Now, let's introduce some Japanese sweets from Zelico's lineup that are perfect for gift-giving.
Since the Ochugen season coincides with schools’ summer break in Japan, there will be opportunities for families to visit their hometown in the countryside, or friends from afar returning and getting together. Zelico's sweets are sure to be appreciated on such occasions!
1. Kyoto Matcha Sweets Selection
This selection allows you to enjoy the flavor of Japanese matcha.
- Thinly baked, crispy gaufre with flavorful Uji matcha cream sandwiched between layers.
- Matcha pie, with delicate layers of matcha infused dough baked to perfection.
Both are light in texture and are popular assortments of sweets.
2. Shrimp Senbei (Japanese Taste), Shrimp Senbei (Cheese Taste)
This is the finest shrimp senbei (crackers), made with carefully selected ingredients to pursue the ultimate deliciousness.
- Japanese Taste: Assortment of 6 classic flavors in a traditional Japanese style.
- Cheese Taste: Assortment of 3 flavors of senbei with the addition of cheese.
Why not send this popular assortment of shrimp-flavored crackers to express your gratitude?
3. Waffle Cookies Assortment
This gift is an assortment of crispy baked waffle cookies with rich milk and cocoa flavors. Their sweet aroma and delightful texture make them a favorite treat for both adults and children.
Packed in a large box of 30 pieces, it's perfect for sharing with family and makes an ideal souvenir for gatherings. The individually wrapped packaging allows you to enjoy them at your convenience.
4. Milk Roll Cookies
The crispy, thinly-rolled cookies are filled with white chocolate. These delightful treats have a light texture and a delicate taste.
The gentle sweetness of the white chocolate is sure to create an enjoyable and pleasant atmosphere for your gatherings.
Summary: How to Celebrate “Chugen,” and the Japanese Sweets Perfect for Gifts
In this blog post, we introduced the customs of “Chugen” in Greater China and the Japanese tradition of “Ochugen.” We also showed you Japanese sweets that are ideal for gifts.
Ochugen in Japan is a summer custom to give gifts to those who have been kind to us, our relatives, or our friends as a token of our gratitude. Interestingly, this tradition originated from the custom of giving gifts to ancestors during Chugen in China.
This summer, why not send some delicious sweets of the Zelico brand to those who have been kind to you and your dear friends?