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What's auspicious & what's not!

  • Jan 22, 2011
It's that time of the year again! Time for RED PACKETS!!!
These are given out to children and adults alike during the 15 days of the Chinese New Year Festivities. For the year 2011, it begins on Feb. 3 and ends on Feb. 17 (last day).

In giving Red packets, make sure the money inside is in round figures (like $10. 20, 40, 60 or 80 and 100. odd figures are NOT in practice and discouraged, ie. 30, 50, 70 or 90). If you have to give less than that, then it's $2, 4, 6, 8. $1, $3, $5, $7 and $9 are normally frowned upon. The figure 7 is especially discouraged in the Chinese society. While it may be a godly number in the western world, 7 is the number that's associated with death and ghost in the Chinese society. Heard of the 7th month? In Lunar calendar, that's the month of the hungry ghosts! People try not to go traveling or move homes or get married during that month! Another numerical number which most Chinese do not like is the number 4. 4 sounded like the word death in Cantonese as well as in Mandarin! Hence, it's not considered an auspicious number, especially during Chinese New Year! 

Other than numbers, try not to go to any Chinese homes during this period dressed in BLACK! Black is the color associated with mourning, hence, considered bad luck! The auspicious color during these 15 days of festivities is RED! Hence, you'll see a lot of red color during this period, be it in Chinatown or anywhere that the Chinese reside in.

Some facts about Red Packets:
  • Red packets are mostly given to children and adults (those who are still single). Even if you are 40 and still single, you'd be considered a child by the Chinese tradition.
  • Red packets are mostly red, not any other color. They contain cash and usually NEW notes. Not used ones. The Chinese will head to the bank to exchange new notes before the first day of Chinese New Year. Hence, if you visit the banks a week or two before the CNY, you'll see many Chinese in them!
  • Sometimes some parents (like mine) have become so lazy they give checks (in red packets) or simply do a funds transfer online instead. Those are usually quite a big sum of money. You don't do this unless it's immediate family. Nonetheless, any sum of $$$ is still considered a red packet if given during CNY. Well, if Lunch.com should decide to be generous this year since JR is welcoming a baby girl (who might potentially be born in the Year of the Rabbit!) and it's indeed time for him to give red packets to his nephew/nieces and his own child and some others *hint, hint* (LOL...), then wiring some funds over is more than welcome ;-)
  • Do not ever give coins in red packets!!! (Unless they are real gold coins  ;-))
  • Red packets are never given BY anyone who is still single. You should be married before you give out red packets. Parents normally give out the same (total) amount given to their children. For example, if you've one kid, and someone give your kid $100. The other party may have 5 children. It's not normal for you to return the favor by giving each one of them $100! That would be a hefty sum! Instead, you possibly might give each of your friend's or acquaintance's kids $20 (that works out to $100 for 5 of them). You still have to give 5 red packets but the amount in total is equivalent. Of course, if you choose to give a lot more, it's welcome and you'll see them going to your home EVERY Chinese New Year for red packets, LOL...
  • Lastly but not least, if you've to give a non-round figure, 8, 18, 28, 38, 68, 88 are good numbers. Do not attempt 14, 24, 34, 44, 54, et... 58 and 78 are no no as well. (58 in Cantonese translates to NOT prosperous as the number 5 sounded like no).

So, there you've it all, some of the practice of the giving of lucky money during the CNY (Chinese New Year).
It is also a practice for employers to give employees bonuses in the form of red-packets during this festivity. When employees go visiting their employer's home (if invited, that is), it is usually during the 2nd day of the CNY. Never visit anyone's home without invitation and also NOT on 3rd day of CNY!

You'll also find that Chinese do not open shop on the 3rd day of CNY if that's the first day of the year that the business is opened. That's considered inauspicious. It's either opened on the 2nd day or 4th day. Some even later...

Last but not least, do give Hong Bao (aka red packet) to people who have helped you in the past year or whom you owe some favors to, for example, the security guards of your apartment, the housemaids, the tutors of your children, the restaurant managers where you patron often... as long as they are Chinese, they'll welcome Hong Bao during the CNY! It's a way of saying thanks for a job well done!

Other than the CNY, red packets are often given during weddings

What's auspicious & what's not! What's auspicious & what's not! What's auspicious & what's not! What's auspicious & what's not!

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January 24, 2011
sweet! I always get one of these from my Chinese friends!
January 26, 2011
Ha! Red packets are only for those who have never ever been married before!
More Red Packet (Hong Bao) reviews
Quick Tip by . December 15, 2009
It's hard cash, $$$! Who wouldn't love it?
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In Chinese and other East Asian societies, a red envelope or red packet / red pocket (known as Hóng Bāo in Mandarin, Ang Pao in Hokkien and Lai See in Cantonese, and "lì xì" in Vietnamese) is a monetary gift which is given during holidays or special occasions.

Red envelopes are mainly presented at social and family gatherings such as weddings or on holidays such as the Lunar New Year. The red color of the envelope symbolizes good luck and is supposed to ward off evil spirits.

The amount of money contained in the envelope usually ends with an even digit, in accordance with Chinese beliefs; for instance 88 and 168 are both lucky numbers, as odd-numbered money gifts are traditionally associated with funerals. But there is a widespread tradition that money should not be given in fours, or the number four should not appear in the amount, as the pronunciation of the word "four" resembles that of the word "death", and it signifies bad luck for many Chinese (See Numbers in Chinese culture). At weddings, the amount offered is usually intended to cover the cost of the attendees as well as a goodwill to the newly weds.

During Lunar New Year, mainly in South China, red envelopes (in the North, just money without any cover) are typically given to the unmarried by the married. The amount of money is usually a single note ...

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