The Chinese New Year is a time when small red envelopes pop up at Asian grocery stores, Party City and even Starbucks as part of the celebration. It’s a tradition to give red envelopes with cash to children and unmarried relatives for the Chinese New Year, which begins today.
The red envelopes are more of an intriguing blend of cash and luck. And if we’re fortunate, the envelopes could contain a financial lesson or two as we move into the Year of the Sheep.
A Red Envelope is simply a long, narrow, red envelope with money in it. Traditional red envelopes are often decorated with gold Chinese characters like happiness and wealth. Variations of the red envelope include red envelopes with cartoon characters and red envelopes from stores and companies that contain coupons and gift certificates inside.
Why Red Color?
The red color of the envelope symbolizes good luck and is supposed to ward off evil spirits. Red envelopes are usually given out by married couples to single people, especially to children.
How much to Give?
The amount of money contained in the envelope usually ends with an even digit, in accordance with Chinese Beliefs. There is also a widespread tradition that money should not be given in fours, or the number four should not appear in the amount, such as in 40, 400 and 444, as the pronunciation of the word “four” is homophonous to the word “death”.
The amount of money in red envelopes given to children for Chinese New Year depends on age and the giver’s relationship to the child. For younger children, the equivalent of about $7 dollars is fine.
How to present the Red Envelope?
When giving someone a red envelope, use both hands to present the red envelope to the recipient. Giving and receiving red envelopes, gifts, and even business cards is a solemn act. Therefore, red envelopes, gifts and name cards are always presented with both hands and also received with both hands.