Good luck is at the center of Chinese New Year. The focus of every celebration attended, tradition followed, food eaten, is to bring as much luck as possible into the coming year. One way to wish others good luck is to give money in lucky envelopes.
- Envelopes are in colors and designs that are thought to be lucky in Chinese culture. The most popular color envelope is red because it symbolizes prosperity and good luck, and the color of fire which is suppose to ward off evil spirits.
- Married adults give red envelopes to children and unmarried adults. If you are married with children also give to married adults without children as a token of good luck for children-to-come.
- Two envelopes are given to each person. One from the wife, one from the husband. Each envelope should have the same amount of money.
- The amount in each envelope and sum of envelopes should not contain the number four, such as 4, 40, 400. The pronunciation of the word “four” (四) is similar to the word “death” (死), signifying bad luck.
- Money should be new and crisp. Giving folded, wrinkled money is in bad taste and you would lose face.
- Give cash, no checks, and definitely no coins.
- Don’t sign the back of the red envelope.
Gift Amount Guidelines (as of 2015, inflation could effect amounts for later years)
- Family members should not receive less then $10 (two 5’s). The amount depends on how close you are to the relative (niece you see at holidays and family gatherings vs. cousin’s daughter you met for the first time). It is also ok for newly married couples to give a smaller amount their first couple years until they build more financial wealth.
- Give to children of your good friends. Follow the same guidelines as described for family members. There will be many family gatherings during Chinese New Year. Try to also get together with friends to celebrate the New Year.
- Doormen, hair dressers, other personal service professionals should not receive less then $6 (three 1’s in each envelope). The amount depends on how long you have been using their services, how often you see them in a year, how many people provide you the service (ex. doormen). Only give them red envelopes if you see them around the time of the holiday.
The Dumpling Mama xo