Thursday, December 27, 2012

Chinese New Year Customs - Lucky Money

It is the money given to kids from their parents and grandparents as New Year gift. The money is believed to bring good luck, ward off monsters, hence the name "lucky money". Parents and grandparents first put money in small, especially-made red envelopes and give the red envelopes to their kids after the New Year's Feast or when they come to visit them on the New Year. They choose to put the money in red envelopes because Chinese people think red is a lucky color. They want to give their children both lucky money and lucky color.
Red envelops are also popular gifts in occasion of weddings and birthdays. These days, giving red packets as a bonus at the year-end to the employees has also becomes very popular.
Chinese New Year Lucky Money

The customs about giving out red envelops (or red packets) are different in mainland China and in Hong Kong.

In mainland China, a Red envelopes or a red packet is a monetary gift which is passed out during the celebration of Chinese New Year. Usually, it is given from married couples or elderly generations to unmarried younger generations. The color of red symbolizes vitality, happiness and good luck in Chinese culture. Giving red envelopes to unmarried younger generation means giving best wishes and good luck to them. The money inside the red envelope is only used to make children happy; however, the importance of the red envelope lies in the red color which is loaded with cultural meaning. So, it is impolite to open the red envelope before the elderly generations who gives it to you.

The red envelope passed out during the Chinese New Year is commonly referred to as Ya Sui Qian (压岁钱) in Chinese, which is evolved from "压祟钱". "祟" means evil spirits in Chinese, which can do harm to children during the Chinese New Year. And "压" means prevent or subdue in Chinese. So, if parents want the children to have a lucky new year, they need something to prevent the evil spirits from harming the children. By chance, a couple in ancient times found out that copper cash in red envelopes can scared the evil spirits away. So, more and more families used red envelopes with copper cash to protect their children. And with years of evolution, today's red envelopes gradually came into being.

There are two kinds of red envelopes in mainland China. The first kind cannot even be called red envelope because there's no envelope at all. Parents use colorful ropes to tie some copper cash together, and weave it in the shape of a dragon. Then they put it at the foot of the bed to scare evil spirits away. Another kind is the commonly seen red envelope: parents or other elder generations put money in red envelopes, and give the red envelopes to the children in front of everybody or put the red envelope under the pillow of the children in the Spring Festival's Eve.

New Year Giving Red EnvelopesThe amount of money inside the red envelopes varies from ten RMB yuan to several hundreds of RMB yuan. Little children usually use the money to buy firecrackers, candies, toys and so on. And students usually use the money to buy books and school supplies.

The custom to giving out red envelopes in Hong Kong is quite different from that in mainland China. Apart from unmarried younger generation, Hong Kong people also give red envelopes to children in the neighborhood and unmarried colleague and friends even they are much older. Sometimes, they even give red envelops to they boss if the boss is still unmarried. Some people even give red envelopes to workers in their housing estate. The amount of money inside the red envelope is mostly 10 HK dollars to 20 HK dollars, seldom more than 50 HK dollars. When giving out red envelops, Hong Kong people always keep mumbling some words like May you be happy and prosperous or enjoy good health etc. Hong Kong people are not only fond of giving out red envelops, but also fond of accepting red envelopes. Some Hong Kong people even come all the way to ask people for red envelops. This is because Hong Kong people believe that red envelopes can bring good luck and great fortune, and can give people a smooth and prosperous year.

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