The origin of Eebaji (이바지) is what the in-laws sent to each other to show gratitude and good will towards each other and for the future of their children.
The groom’s family typically sends over a ‘hahm’ (name for the fancy containers holding the eebaji) 1-week after the marriage date has been set, and the bride’s family sends over a ‘hahm’ to the groom’s family (assuming the bride is starting her new life there) to ask to please have kind understanding with their daughter and also to aid in the bride’s food preparations for the first morning by including traditional table foods.
The traditional items include precious foods, fabrics, and dried beef and such, but the tradition has been simplified over time, especially because of the suffering economy due to the late 1990’s IMF crisis and the needs of modern families. Some eebaji are skipped entirely after parental discussions, and in modern times the grooms’ eebaji hahm have skipped altogether and it’s quite normal for many areas of Seoul to consider it a foreign concept– although some parts of Korea still follow the tradition.
Now the precious hahm have been replaced with the bride’s regular luggage bag (if the bride is moving into the groom’s family’s home), and many modern couples who plan on starting their marriage on their own opt to gift identical dduk boxes for both parental sides. (Make sure to wrap your gift in fabric to reflect extra humility and respect!)
This tradition has changed over time, but the symbolism stands firm– good wishes, intentions, gratitude, humility, and respect– core values of our Korean culture.