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The Dos and Don'ts of Red Envelope Giving

Updated: Feb 27

The Lunar New Year festivities are just around the corner! Lately, many have been asking us about the rules of giving and getting Hóngbāo – those lucky red envelopes often exchanged during Chinese New Year. By popular demand, we're more than happy to share some of the most important Red Envelope Etiquette we have in Chinese culture!

1. No to crumpled, used notes, Yes to clean, crisp notes.

It's crucial to bear in mind that when presenting Hóngbāo, opt for fresh, new bills rather than old, crumpled notes. Aging paper money can lose its pristine appearance, so consider a visit to the bank to withdraw crisp, new bills for a more polished and thoughtful presentation.

2. Avoid the death-sounding number 4, and give amount in even numbers.

In adhering to Hóngbāo etiquette, we have to steer clear of the number 4, which is associated with death in Chinese culture. This is because the Chinese word for 4, 四 (), sounds like 死 (), which means "to die." It's a bit like how certain words sound the same but have different meanings in English. Instead, opt for giving amounts in even numbers for a more auspicious and culturally sensitive gesture.

3. Slip in notes, not coins!

It's a custom to only slip notes inside the Hóngbāo. Yet, in certain Asian countries like Malaysia, adults often add a coin to the red envelope, especially when given to children, as it symbolizes extra luck.

4. Learn the simple New Year wishes when receiving a Red Envelope

To show courtesy, present and receive a Hong Bao with both hands. When exchanging a Hong Bao, it's customary to share a traditional greeting and remember to express gratitude by saying thank you, (xiè xiè). Don't forget to greet them with a Happy New Year (Xīn Nián Kuài Lè) as well!

As we gear up for the Chinese New Year next month, we trust these tips will prove helpful as you spend time with your loved ones in the coming weeks.

If you enjoyed this, keep an eye out for more exciting content about culture throughout the year! You can also share in the comments what other topics you'd like for us to discuss!


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