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Chinese Culture >> Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year Red Envelopes

There are many traditions that Western people know about Chinese Culture and the Chinese New Year. The Chinese New Year is celebrated annually in January or February, according to the lunar calendar.

Many people compare the Chinese New Year to Christmas in western culture. Just as most western children receive gifts for Christmas, Chinese children receive decorated red envelopes with money inside as their gift from family and close friends. These inexpensive envelopes are sold in general stores and have special writing and pictures on them for the Chinese New Year.

Parents may directly give the red envelope to the child or they may hide it under the child's pillow to be found in the morning. If the red envelope is given directly to the children, they may be required to kowtow to their parents to show respect. It is said that if the monster 'Nian' comes to scare or harm the children, they can use the money to bribe him to go away!

Some interesting things about these gifts is that the children aren't required to write "thank-you notes." Such courtesies are not part of the Chinese Culture. (Any child reading this is probably now wishing he were Chinese!) Also parents must record the amount that the child was given and by whom so that they can reciprocate the next year, or at another money giving occasion. My first real experience with this came when I married my Chinese husband. As people handed us money, some in red envelopes, some not, he quietly told me to remember how much money each person gave us so that when they get married or have a child, we could give back the same exact amount. The same goes for the Chinese New Year red envelopes. After my son receives the money, I dutifully write down the giver and amount in a notebook which I keep for this purpose, so that the next year I remember how much money to give his cousins and my friends' children.

The amount of money given is often at least 100 yuan (about $15) to upwards of 1000 yuan (well over $125). Relatives will give more than friends, with grandparents giving the most money. Usually children are allowed to spend some of the money, just as western children do with Christmas money, but since there is the potential to get a lot of money, many parents will put at least half of it in the child's bank account.

About the Author

I'm an English teacher in China and has spent the last six years living in a small town teaching English. You visit my lens about the Chinese New Year and find out where to get Chinese Party Supplies for your Chinese New Year's party