Chinese Hongbao: Know All About The Red Pockets

Chinese Hongbao: Know All About The Red Pockets

Chinese New Year marks the beginning of a new year on the traditional lunar calendar. Also known as the Lucky new year, the day is celebrated with all the enthusiasm. On this day families come together and welcome the coming year wishing longevity, happiness and prosperity to all. Dinners, firecrackers and gifts are the central themes of the day. But one of the most popular traditions of the Chinese new year gifts is giving the red pockets. These red envelopes are the most common gifts that are handed over to the family and friends.

Whats Are The Red Pockets
Also popular by the name of hongbao or lucky money, these red envelopes are a big part of the CNY and are also handed over at weddings, birthdays or workspaces. The money is not essential, but the red colour paper holds a lot of significance. Red is considered a lucky colour and is believed to ward off evil spirits. Red is also the symbol of energy, good luck and happiness hence giving money in these envelopes is a way of sending good luck and wishes. Wrapping money in red envelopes is believed to bring prosperity for both the giver and the receiver.

This tradition is believed to be started from the Han dynasty when people gifted small collectables like coins rather than money. Some auspicious phrases and symbols like “Longevity and fortune”, “Worldwide peace” and dragons and phoenixes were engraved on the surface. These coins were tied together with red strings.

Legends Involved
There are several legends related to this red envelope. As per one of the legends, a monster named Nian would come out of the forest on the new years night. To protect the community from Nian, parents would give children money so that they have something to bribe the monster with.

Another legend talks about a demon called Sui who would pat children’s head on new year’s eve, making the kids fall ill. To protect their children from his touch, parents started guarding them at night. One couple gave their child a coin to play with, and once he fell asleep, they kept the coin on the side of his pillow. When Sui reached this child, he got scared with the flash of the coin and went away. The next day the couple wrapped the coin in red to show all villagers, and soon everybody started covering coins in red to protect their children. Hence these envelopes got their names hongbao which means “to protect their children”.

Various Traditions
There are many traditions and ways of giving and receiving this money. For example, one should avoid giving an amount such as 40 or 400 as the number 4 sound similar to “si” in Chinese, which means death.

Lovers should give 520 yuan because 5, 2 and 0 sound like “ I love you” in Chinese.
Numbers ending from 8 are considered to enhance good luck. Apart from families, married couples give their single friends the red envelope to pass on some luck. The elders receive the money from kids as a sign of gratefulness for everything that they have done.

The rule of giving the money simply states- the closer the person, the heftier the sum.

Hence nothing tops any Chinese new year gifts like the Red pockets.

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Surabhi Guleria

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