Year of the Dragon
23 January 2012
Happy Chinese New Year! Wishing everyone a happy, prosperous and food-enriched year of the dragon!
Red Chinese New Year Lucky Money Envelopes / Lai See / Hongbao – Classic Good Fortune
In Chinese culture a red envelope or red packet/red pocket (known as Lai See in Cantonese), is a monetary gift which is given during holidays or very special occasions. The tradition is meant to bring good luck. These high quality paper envelopes have the Chinese character for good fortune embossed on the front in gold with ancient characters in the background – I’ve always loved the foil blocking, high print quality and tasteful design of the simple Lai See envelope – nowadays you can find a lot of Lai See designs looking a bit more youthful and having a more modern take on the traditional Chinese red envelope.
Giving Lai See is not as straightforward as it seems and there is a certain etiquette around who you give and how much you give but the general rule of thumb with Lai See is that it’s given from a senior to a junior. For example my mum and dad will give Lai See to me, niece and nephews but they must be unmarried (parents to their young ‘single’ children) and employer to their employees/members of staff and residents to doormen. Married couples will also give Lai See to their single friends. 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. £10/£20 notes are common Lai See monetary amounts.
“Lucky” foods are served through the two week Chinese New Year celebration – see one of my previous blog posts: Welcoming the Chinese New Year. To me, food allows friends, family and neighbours to get together, forming new friendships to make communities stronger. In addition to the red envelopes and good food, small gifts are also exchanges between friends and family during the Chinese New Year. Common gifts include fruit (oranges, satsumas and clementines, etc…), cakes, biscuits and chocolates.
Have a nommingly good time everyone! :) – Oh, remember to say “Kung Hei Fat Choi!” to your oriental friends and family, they’ll love it!