For the loved ones who can’t join you this year for those special meals, a hand-packed bento box makes the perfect gift for expressing gratitude and cheer. Filled with a tidy array of edible treats, each box will feel like sharing a meal together even while you’re apart.
One of the simplest ways to spark joy is to prepare something delicious for those you love. As the nights get longer, each evening is a chance to gather around the table with family, savoring bites of favorite dishes — and the occasional sweet dessert — while sharing stories and laughter.
The manner in which we celebrate together may look different today than it did in years past, but the joy and love shared while enjoying a delicious meal can still be captured in new ways. Enter — the bento box.
What is a Bento Box?
In Japanese, the word bento means “lunch box,” although today, bento boxes are used for all types of meals and snacks. Filled with home-cooked food, a bento box provides comfort and nourishment on the go. For this reason, they are often used for packing school lunches or carrying meals on long work or travel days.
Each bento box varies but usually includes a range of tastes — sweet, savory, salty, umami — and always feels thoughtfully arranged. Traditionally, half the bento box is filled with rice while the smaller compartments hold fruit, vegetables and a light protein to create a complete meal. Each dish is stored separately to keep flavors from mixing and to create a tidy, beautiful presentation.
How to Give Thanks with a Bento Box
Bento boxes can also be used to send edible gifts home with loved ones — wherever home might be. In Japan, hand-packed bento boxes are typically delivered in person, while pre-packaged gift boxes are mailed to distant friends and family. Feel free to get creative with how you express your gratitude and goodwill, too. The trick is to create each bento box with the recipient’s taste in mind.
For friends, you might add a dish or two that you once shared together. Or, you might create a full meal of traditional dishes to remind someone of — or introduce them to — Japan. For little ones, fill the box with a mix of Japanese sweets and snacks, such as rice crisps and green tea candies.
Here are a few rules to follow when creating a gift bento box:
- Think about balance. Plan for a mix of sweet and savory items, including something warm to drink, such as a tin of matcha or a delicate herbal tea.
- Plan for travel. If you intend to mail your bento boxes, pick treats that won’t go stale or crumble during shipping — and don’t forget that, even in winter, shipments might get exposed to heat!
- Organize the KonMari Method™️ way — by category! Place like with like, organizing items by color, texture or food type. This tidy visual arrangement will delight the recipient when they lift the lid.
- Add words of gratitude. Especially during the holidays, including a handwritten note with each box lets you thank loved ones for sparking joy in your life — and even share a fond memory.
- Wrap the box in furoshiki. This traditional cloth serves as both wrapping paper and a placemat for serving the treats inside. Later, the recipient can reuse the fabric to wrap a gift of their own — or, if it sparks joy, keep it as a piece of home decor!
- Look to the future. Before closing the box, pause to express gratitude for the person who will receive it, and set an intention to visit them as soon as you can.