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Everything You Should Know about Chinese Red Envelopes

Posted by Julia Song on Jan 22, 2016

red envelope

What will be the first thing that comes up into your mind when we talk about Chinese New Year? Spring Festival Couplets, firecrackers, or dumplings? My answer is red envelope! Why? Here are all the things you want to know!

Red envelope or you can say 'red packet', or '红包(hóng bāo)', carrying a stereotype of Chinese traditional custom during Chinese New Year. Literally, '红' means 'red', a color. '包' means bag, but an actual Chinese '红包(hóng bāo)' is a red envelope instead of a red bag.

Sometimes, we also called it 'lucky money' for it was believed can bring luck and bless kids safe in a brand new year.

Rumor has it that in Ming Dynasty, the elders always use a red thread to string the copper coins together and give it to the young kids only in the New Year times. After 1900s, the red envelopes had emerged and gradually replace the red thread.

Nowadays, with the development of modern technique, the form of red envelope has also evolved to follow up the step of modern life. Not only the red envelopes has been used more widely, the wedding days, some holidays, or a party for a baby's birthday had all applied the custom of giving red envelope, but also an electronic red envelope had been developed.

In my memory of the last over twenty years of Chinese New Year, receiving red envelope from grandparents or some relatives should be the most excited and expected part, because I feel I'm as rich as Bill Gates after receiving many red envelopes!

When I was still a kid, during the New Year's dinner, all the family members gathering at the table, I have to say some words of blessing to my grandparents on my knees, like '福如东海,寿比南山[fú rú dōng hǎi,shòu bǐ nán shān]' (May your fortune be as boundless as the East Sea and may you live a long and happy life!).

Only after that process, I can get a red envelope. All my siblings should do the same in turn. But before my 18, I didn't actually own the red envelope I received. I believe most of the teenagers do. Normally, the parents will say, 'You are too young to manage money. I and your father will help to save your money. ' Or 'we will use the money to pay your tuition.' And then they took away the money that we gained through our knees.

As I grow older, my parents start to let me manage my lucky money. I will use it to buy the clothes or cosmetic that I have been longing for a whole year. I really can't save them up although I sincerely want to.

Now, you must be so curious about the amount of a red envelope and want to open it, right? Actually, the custom is different from province to province. It even can be different from people to people.

Generally speaking, in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, a New Year's red envelope usually has RMB 100 to RMB 200 in it. If the person had helped you before or he/she plays an important role in your life or your career, the amount should be higher.

Besides, you can prepare several little red envelopes with RMB 5 or RMB10 in it and give it to the security guards or cleaners at your living mansion to thank for their work of keeping your living environment secure and clean.

One more thing, if you live in Guangdong province, remember to prepare the little red envelopes to your subordinates to wish a prosperous business when you back to work on the first day of New Year.

If you are going to attend a friend's wedding ceremony, the amount is range from RMB200 to RMB500, which depends on your intimacy with that friend, the closer, the amount should be higher.

Giving red envelope is a social activity to make people keep in touch with each other at the beginning of a year. You won't lose much money for one hand, the time you are giving, you or your children are receiving; for the other hand, your connection with your friends and relatives are getting tighter, and this connection can't be simply judge by money.

At the end, I'm going to teach you a super practical sentence: '恭喜发财,红包拿来。[gōng xǐ fā cái, hóng bāo ná lái]'. Want to know the meaning of this sentence? Click here to book a free trial class with us!

In order to celebrate the coming Chinese new year, Hanbridge Mandarin provides millions of lucky red envelopes for you, here to grab your envelope!

Learn more daily Chinese with us, try a free trial class now!

About The Author

Julia Song

Julia Song is a Chinese learning teacher at Hanbridge Mandarin. Julia Song excels at linguistic pedagogy and one-on-one instruction with 8 years teaching experience and her cheerful attitude and close attention to her students' progress make her an excellent Mandarin teacher for students of all levels.

Learn Chinese online with Julia Song>>

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