The Chinese Red Envelope

The Chinese Red Envelope

A gift of good fortune at Chinese New Year and special holidays

By Staff

Chinese tradition equates the color red with good luck, and so the red envelope is a monetary gift to attract good fortune that is given at Chinese New Year, weddings, birthdays and other special occasions.

Chinese New Year is all about rebirth and new opportunity, so one of the most exciting ways to embrace this is with the red envelope -- a tradition dating all the way back to the Qing Dynasty.

Back then, it was believed that stringing red ribbon through money could ward off death and sickness, specifically for the elderly. These days, the gift of money from one generation to another symbolizes good luck and protection.

Shades of celebration

In Chinese culture, red is a popular color to wear and use around the Chinese New Year. Not only does it attract good luck, it symbolizes happiness. In fact, it's a popular color for brides to wear in traditional wedding ceremonies.

Gifts of good fortune

Although the amount of money in the red envelope varies, most gifts are in amounts that end in an even digit (for good luck), and the amount rarely involves the number four, because four is believed to have a connection to death or misfortune.

While red envelopes are also given at weddings and special occasions, they are most common around the start of Chinese New Year. Recipients are not supposed to open the envelopes until after they are finished celebrating.

If they do open the envelope, it's like breaking a mirror -- bad luck can follow them around! If they follow the rules, however, the gift of the red envelope is a gift for prosperity and good fortune throughout the coming months.

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