Red envelopes – 红包

Red envelopes with money inside (红包, hóngbāo, “red envelope”) are the most popular gift in China. Guests give them to brides and grooms on their wedding, parents and older family members to children for Chinese New Year. Every special occasion, as a baby’s birth, graduation, or wedding is celebrated with a red envelope. Companies traditionally also give red envelopes to their employees for New Year. These envelopes are not just money. They are also a wish of good luck and prosperity to their recipient. Receiving a red envelope is an exciting moment for children, comparable to receiving Christmas gifts in certain countries.

Why are these envelopes red?

The Chinese are very fond of red, as it symbolizes energy, happiness and good luck. People believe money donated in red envelopes will bring happiness and blessings to the people their recipient.

How to give a red envelope correctly?

Traditionally, one should put brand-new banknotes in the red envelope. Giving dirty or dented money is not something to do. When choosing the number of banknotes, “4” must be avoided, as it sounds the same as the word “death”. Even sums are also preferable to odd ones (except those containing 4’s). If the amount of money starts or ends with an eight (“800” or “888”) it’s even better. The number “8” sounds like the word “rich” in Cantonese.

How to politely accept a red envelope?

When someone gives you a red envelope, accept it with both hands, it is a sign of courtesy. Don’t forget to thank the person and wish him/her something in return. The red envelope should not be opened immediately in front of other people, because it is considered disrespectful.

Wechat red envelopes

With the progress of technology, giving a red envelope has become even easier. Since 2015, the Chinese messenger Wechat offers the possibility to send virtual red

envelopes (with real money!) in private and public chats. Such monetary greetings are very popular during the New Year holidays.

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