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The Red Envelopes in Chinese New Year

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Written by: Olivia LI
Photo by:Olivia LI
Edited by:James Campion, WANG Mengyu |  Date:2018/03/04124 Hits

China stands as a nation where citizens take action on numerous traditional customs to celebrate the Chinese New Year. One of these customs is giving and getting red envelopes. During the Chinese New Year, you may see many kids holding the red envelopes wearing smiles on their faces. The money is packed in a red envelope since red is considered to be lucky and pleasant in China. The red envelope is called Yasuiqian or Hongbao in Chinese.

 

Yasuiqian means the money to keep your age. According to folklore, in ancient China, there was a monster called Nian which would harm children and crops every 365 days. To frighten Nian away, people packaged the copper coins in red paper, which is called Yasuiqian. As time goes on, it has become an important custom in Chinese New Year. Now, the red envelope represents a desire for well-being and wealth in the coming year.

 

With the development of history, the scenes of giving red envelopes have increased. The new name of red envelope Hongbao then came out. Besides the Spring Festival, people give red envelopes to express their congratulations for weddings, birthdays, opening ceremonies and so on.

 

Traditional red envelopes

 

Generally, people give the red envelopes after Chinese New Year Eve. The money is from the senior to the kids. Here senior doesn’t mean age. It means generation. In some places, it’s the money from the married to the unmarried. Before they get the red envelopes, they are required to say some greeting words to the givers for the New Year. The most popular one is “Gong Xi Fa Cai”, which means may you be prosperous. However, be aware that this red envelope system is more like a family concept rather than a friend’s concept. So don’t give your friends’ kids red envelopes. What’s more, declining or opening the red envelopes in public is rude.

 

With the popularity of social networks, the Chinese New Year tradition of gifting money is taken into the digital era. This idea is more convenient to give out the money. With the electronic version, the red envelopes can be sent through popular platforms such as WeChat and QQ. The giver doesn’t physically have to meet with the receiver thus many limitations are removed. And the money in the red envelope can be transferred from the sender’s bank account.

 

Electronic red envelope

 

In China, most kids under 18 years old don’t have a bank account and they don’t have the ability to spend that much. So their parents tend to collect all of the money thinking it better to help their children to save the money for future use.

 

All in all, giving the red envelope is an important tradition in Chinese New Year. It carries good wishes and love in both traditional and electronic forms.