By: Eric Li
Chinese New Year is the most important and popular of all the Chinese holidays. It is
held annually, it will be held next year on January 23, 2012. It is a holiday
celebrated all throughout in countries with significant Asian populations like
Mainland China Hong Kong, Indonesia Tibet, Macau, Malaysia, Philippines,
Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, and even in Canada. In China it is known as the “Spring
Festival”. Chinese New Year’s Eve and Chinese New Year, days in which Chinese
families gather for their annual reunion dinner (Chiu, 2011).
During Chinese New Year, there are many different customs and traditions which
consist of sharing wealth through buying presents, decorating the house, buying
new clothes, and cleaning the house as a sign off sweeping away any ill-fortune in
hopes of bringing in new luck during the new year (Chiu, 2011). Based on my
personal experience, families get together on Chinese New Years Eve and have a
feast consisting of food which celebrates are culture and it is a time of sharing love
and forgetting past conflicts and wishing everyone happiness, well-being, health,
and wealth. The most recognizable, and significant tradition that occurs during
Chinese New Year is the passing of the Red Envelope. This is the most exciting time
for youth, and unmarried individuals as we receive numerous red packets from the
elderly, and married (Mack, 2011).
The red envelope is a long, red envelope with money inside. Traditional envelopes
have gold writing on them, which usually have Chinese characters like happiness or
wealth (Mack, 2011). Unlike western traditions, the red envelope is usually given
unsigned. The envelope is red because in Chinese tradition it is a colour, which
resembles luck and is supposed to ward of evil spirits (Mack, 2011).
The red envelope always contain money, usually varying from a couple dollars to
several hundred depending on how close you are to the elderly. The closer the
bloodline, the more you are likely to receive. Money received in an envelope is
usually even numbers as it is seem as a sign of luck (Mack, 2011). When I receive
envelopes from my elder’s the money inside usually contains eight dollars or six.
Eight is commonly found because it is a homophone for wealth in Chinese and six is
also popular because it sounds like smooth when translated to Chinese (Mack,
2011). Four is always avoided as because it is the homophone for death when
translated to Chinese. When asking for a red envelope, a married person, or elderly
would not turn down the request as it would bring them no luck in the coming year
Red envelopes are also given during weddings, and white envelopes are given
during funerals in that case you would insert an odd number into the envelope.
When receiving a red envelope during Chinese New Year, or on your birthday don’t
open it in front of the giver as it is deemed disrespectful and always use both hands
when receiving or distributing a red envelope as it represents a solemn act and a
sign of respect between the two (Mack, 2011).
Remember when you want to receive a red envelope during Chinese New Year all
you have to say is Gong Hey Fat Choy !
Mack, L (2011). Chinese New Year: Red Envelope: About.com.
Chiu, Lisa (2011). The History of Chinese New Year: About.com.