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Home History and Culture Red Envelope (红包)
Red Envelope (红包)
Learn Chinese - History and Culture

In Chinese society, a red envelope or red packet / red pocket (Known as Hong Bao in Mandarin, Ang Pao in Hokkien and Lai See in Cantonese, 红包) is a monetary gift which is given during holidays or special occasions.

Origin
There are no clear literary sources from which to trace the origin of the red envelope tradition. In China, during the Qing Dynasty, the elderly would thread coins with a red string. The money was called yāsuì qián (traditional Chinese: 壓歲錢 压岁钱), meaning "money warding off evil spirits", and was believed to protect the elderly from sickness and death. The yāsuì qián was replaced by red envelopes when printing presses became more common after the establishment of the Republic of China in 1911. Red envelopes are also referred to as yāsuì qián.

 

 

Usage
Red envelopes are mainly presented at social and family gatherings such as Chinese weddings or on holidays such as the Chinese 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 number itself has a similar tone to the Chinese character for "death", and it signifies bad luck for many Chinese. 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 Chinese 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, only to those who are younger in age. Traditionally, the red envelope is not supposed to be opened until the Chinese New Year festivities are over; otherwise, bad luck would befall the recipient for the whole year.

 

Other customs

Similar customs also exist in other countries in Asia. In Vietnam, red envelopes are called lì xì, similar to the Cantonese pronunciation "lai see". In Thailand, they are known as ang pow (the pronunciation of the Chinese characters for "red envelope" in the Hokkien/Fukien dialect) or tae ea among the Chinese-Thai. In Myanmar (Burma), the Burmese Chinese refer to them as an-pao (Burmese: ), and South Korea's envelopes are called "sae bae ton".

In Japan, a monetary gift called otoshidama is given to children by their relatives during the New Year period. However, white envelopes are used instead, with the name of the receiver written on its obverse. A similar practice is observed for Japanese weddings, but the envelope is folded rather than sealed, and decorated with an elaborate bow.

 

 

红包(压岁钱)
 

派"红包"是华人春节的一种习俗,华人喜爱红色,因为红色象征活力、愉快与好运。
派发红包给未成年的晚辈(根据华人的观念,已婚者就算成年),是表示把祝愿和好运带给他们。红包里的钱,只是要让孩子们开心,其主要意义是在红纸,因为它象征好运。因此,在分派红包的长辈面前打开红包,是不礼貌的做法。


春节拜年时,长辈要将事先准备好的压岁钱分给晚辈,据说压岁钱可以压住邪祟,因为"岁"与"祟"谐音,晚辈得到压岁钱就可以平平安安度过一岁。压岁钱有两种,一种是以彩绳穿线编作龙形,置于床脚,此记载见于《燕京岁时记》;另一种是最常见的,即由家长用红纸包裹分给孩子的钱。压岁钱可在晚辈拜年后当众赏给,亦可在除夕夜孩子睡着时,由家长愉偷地放在孩子的枕头底下。


民间认为分压岁钱给孩子,当恶鬼妖魔或"年"去伤害孩子时,孩子可以用这些钱贿赂它们而化凶为吉。清人吴曼云《压岁钱》的诗中云:"百十钱穿彩线长,分来再枕自收藏,商量爆竹谈箫价,添得娇儿一夜忙"。由此看来,压岁钱牵系着一颗颗童心,而孩子的压岁钱主要用来买鞭炮、玩具和糖果等节日所需的东西。


现在长辈为晚辈分送压岁钱的习俗仍然盛行,压岁饯的数额从几十到几百不等,这些压岁钱多被孩子们用来购买图书和学习用品,新的时尚为压岁钱赋予了新的内容。

Last Updated on Tuesday, 01 February 2011 13:45
 

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