The Red Envelope Custom for Chinese New Year

It can be said that Chinese culture is based on Confucianism. This philosophy emphasises on good manners, politeness and respect. Respect to age, status and rank are very clear especially during the Chinese New Year. The act of greeting and blessing during the Chinese New Year is called 拜年 (bài nián), which literally means “to pay a visit for the New Year”. You must visit the senior relatives from the husband’s side in the family first. It is important to always bring gifts! Even in a form of a smile or a good blessing.

Some may ask why not visit the wife’s family? It is one of the Chinese New Year’s taboos and misfortunes. Do not visit the wife’s family. Traditionally, multiple generations live together. The bride moves into the groom’s home after marriage. And, of course, she will celebrate the Chinese New Year with her in-laws. Returning to her parents on New Year’s Day means that there are marriage problems and may also bring bad luck to the entire family. The couple and the children should visit the wife’s family on the second day of the new year. Where the kids get even more red envelops as being more waited.

The famous red envelopes are filled with money and given to children during the New Year. In return for the gesture of visit, the grandparents and elders will give the younger generation red envelopes. The “lucky money.” red envelopes are also known as 压岁钱 (yā suì qián). Literally, it is “money to anchor the year.” It is also known as “lucky money” or “New Year’s money.”

A lot of thought is put into these red pockets. By giving the money to children, elders are hoping to pass on a year of good fortune and blessings. Another version is given by the younger generation to their elders as a blessing of longevity and a show of gratitude. In some regions of China, rather than between generations, married couples will give red envelopes to their unmarried friends to transfer some luck.

In the past, currency was in the form of coins similar in shape to donuts. Parents would use red string to tie the coins together and give to their children. It transitioned to be wrapped in red paper and now, put into red envelopes. To receive this, you must perform 3 kowtows to the elders. Kowtow (磕头-kē tóu) literally means to “knock your head”. Basically, you kneel and place your hands on the ground before you. Bend over and rest your head between your hands. This is the ultimate expression of respect.

Nowadays, we can observe changes in the traditions of giving money influenced by the evolution of the social media apps and the cryptocurrencies. Thanks to platforms like WeChat, Alipay, and from the last year EtherWallet or NeoWAllet digital red envelopes are the new trend. Even the government-sponsored Spring Festival Gala, the biggest New Year TV Program in China, has digital red pocket activities. It’s expected that this Chinese New Year will bring huge income to the cryptocurrency market as it will be very fashionable and trendy gift.

At the end what is most important is that the red pockets bring joy and happiness to children and adults alike. It is a gesture of love and gratitude to each other.