The Origin of Red Envelopes (Hongbao) for Chinese New Year
Chinese New Year is the most important traditional festival in China. During this holiday, it is customary to give red envelopes filled with money to children as a gift. This practice is known as "giving red envelopes" or "giving lucky money." But where did this tradition come from, and why do Chinese people give red envelopes during Chinese New Year? In this article, we will answer some common questions about the origin and meaning of red envelopes.
1. What is a red envelope, and why is it red?
A red envelope is a small, rectangular envelope made of paper or silk. It is red in color, which is considered lucky in Chinese culture. Red is associated with good fortune, happiness, and prosperity. Giving a red envelope is believed to bring good luck and blessings to the recipient.
2. What is the origin of the red envelope tradition?
The tradition of giving red envelopes dates back to ancient China. According to legend, there was a demon named "Sui" who would come out at night and terrorize children. To protect their children, parents would put coins inside red paper and place them under their pillows. The noise of the coins would scare away the demon, and the children would be safe. Over time, this practice evolved into the tradition of giving red envelopes filled with money to children during Chinese New Year.
3. Who gives red envelopes, and to whom?
Red envelopes are typically given by married couples, elders, and employers to children, unmarried adults, and employees as a way of showing goodwill and blessings for the new year. It is also common for parents to give red envelopes to their children, and for grandparents to give red envelopes to their grandchildren.
4. How much money should be put inside a red envelope?
The amount of money inside a red envelope varies depending on the giver's relationship with the recipient and their financial situation. In general, the amount should be an even number and should not include the number 4, which is considered unlucky in Chinese culture. The amount can range from a few dollars to several hundred dollars. It is also common to give new, crisp bills inside a red envelope as a sign of respect and good fortune.
5. What is the significance of giving red envelopes?
Giving red envelopes is a way of expressing good wishes and blessings for the new year. It is also a way of showing appreciation and respect to those who are younger or in a subordinate position. Red envelopes are a symbol of good luck and prosperity, and the act of giving them is believed to bring good fortune to both the giver and the recipient.
The tradition of giving red envelopes during Chinese New Year has a long and rich history in Chinese culture. It is a way of expressing goodwill, respect, and blessings for the new year. Whether you are giving or receiving red envelopes, it is important to remember the significance and meaning behind this time-honored tradition.