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From Ancient Origins to Modern Customs: The Story of Chinese Red Envelopes

From Ancient Origins to Modern Customs: The Story of Chinese Red Envelopes

Uploaded on
Aug 9, 2023
Last updated on
Nov 20, 2023
Uploaded on
Aug 9, 2023
Last updated on
Nov 20, 2023
From Ancient Origins to Modern Customs: The Story of Chinese Red Envelopes

From Ancient Origins to Modern Customs: The Story of Chinese Red Envelopes

Chinese red envelopes, also known as Hongbao, an Angpao, a red pocket, or a Chinese envelope, hold a cherished place as one of China's oldest and most traditional customs. The act of gifting money within a vibrant red pocket signifies prosperity, peace, and joy, making it an essential gesture during New Year celebrations, birthdays, and other joyous occasions. This delightful custom has adorned Chinese culture for over a century and has even spread to several South Asian countries, where it continues to be embraced with equal enthusiasm.

This blog will discuss the origin of the red Chinese envelopes, the do’s and don'ts of offering a red packet, and a few commonly asked questions to ensure a pleasant experience!

The Origin of the Red Chinese Envelopes

To truly appreciate the significance of these Chinese red envelopes, it's essential to understand their origin. The story dates back to a tale often recounted to children. It centres around a monster named Sui, who terrified young ones by causing fever and mental distress when touching their heads. To safeguard their children from Sui's practices, parents devised a clever plan. They kept their children awake throughout the night before the New Year, causing the monster to retreat.

In one particular narrative, a young boy received eight coins to keep himself awake and evade Sui's attacks. As he passed the time, he playfully wrapped and unwrapped the coins in red paper. Remarkably, these eight coins represented the eight Chinese immortals from another captivating legend. The boy's parents, recognizing the potential in this act, placed the coins beneath his pillow, which emitted a radiant light when Sui approached, scaring the monster away.

Since then, the tradition of gifting eight coins or money joined by red strings in Chinese envelopes has endured. It symbolises good luck and protection for the recipients.Every Hongbao comes with a set of untold rules or guidelines that people in China follow. Keep reading, and you’ll find the ultimate guide to giving an Angpao, a Hongbao, a Chinese red envelope, or whatever you’d like to call it!

A Guide On How To Give Red Pockets Chinese Envelopes

The act of gifting Chinese envelopes binds together years of traditions and customs. These are heartfelt gestures adorned with intricate designs and good fortune. It encapsulates the spirit of giving, prosperity, and blessings. This section will serve as a compass that can guide you through the art of giving red Chinese envelopes with the appropriate cultural sensitivity and grace!

Who can give a Chinese red envelope? 

Red envelopes, also known as Angpao/Hongbao, can be given and received by anyone. Typically, parents and grandparents bestow these envelopes upon the young members of the family as a gesture of blessings, joy, and prosperity during the New Year festivities. Likewise, when these youngsters come of age, they reciprocate by offering red envelopes to their elders.

However, some families, following traditional beliefs, abstain from giving red envelopes to unmarried individuals. In certain rural areas, it is customary to offer red pockets to every child encountered on New Year's Day.

Regarding the appropriate amount of money to place in the red envelope, there are a few considerations. 

  1. Avoid gifting used or wrinkled notes, as they are considered impolite. Instead, it's advisable to withdraw fresh money from the bank for this purpose.The amount of money to give depends on the recipient's relationship to the giver.
  2.  For Parents: Typically, 500-1000 Chinese Yuan is given.
  3. For Children: Generally, up to 100 Yuan is customary, though this can be increased based on your willingness to give more.
  4. For Youngsters (who do not earn): An amount ranging from 50 to 200 Yuan is typical. This category includes young family members, friends, and classmates.
  5. For Colleagues and Employees: On New Year's Day, an envelope containing anywhere between 100-1000 Yuan is often given.

Of course, the specific amount may vary according to personal preferences, convenience, and the occasion being celebrated (such as weddings, birthdays, etc.). It's best to follow your heart and give what feels right to you.

Now, let's delve into some essential factors to keep in mind when gifting a Chinese red envelope:

  1. Avoid including coins in the envelope, as it is considered inappropriate.
  2. Steer clear of the number 4, as it is associated with the word "death" and is considered inauspicious. Conversely, the number 8 is highly preferred, as it sounds similar to the word "prosperity" and is believed to bring good luck.
  3. Traditionally, younger family members are expected to kneel in front of their elders while receiving the red pocket, taking it with both hands. Additionally, it is considered disrespectful to open the envelope in front of the giver.

So, If you’re planning to give a red pocket Chinese envelope anytime soon, keep these guidelines in mind, and you should be good to go!

China's rich culture and heritage have inspired countless traditions embraced by people worldwide. The Chinese Red Envelopes, a symbol of love, unity, and goodwill, exemplify the warmth of human connections and the enduring spirit of giving. So, the next time you prepare to offer a red pocket, remember these guidelines and embrace the essence of this beautiful tradition!

Frequently Asked Questions

Why should the number 4 not be included in the Chinese Red Envelopes?

Is there a reason why coins are not put in the red pockets?

What is the significance of the colour red with the Angpao/Hongbao?

What are some other names for the Chinese Red Envelope?

Are there other occasions where Chinese envelopes are given/received in Chinese culture?

Are there digital red envelopes in modern times?

Can anyone give or receive red envelopes?

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