This Friday, January 31st, thousands of people will celebrate the 2014 Chinese New Year. The year of the snake will start with fireworks, food, and a whole lot of red envelopes. So why are red envelopes given on Chinese New Year? What significance does the color red have within Chinese culture? We explain:
Why are Red Envelopes Given on Chinese New Year?
The Color Red
The color red has an important meaning in Chinese culture. Red symbolizes fire, which has the power to drive bad luck away. In the past, bamboo stalks were lit on fire in the hopes of scaring away evil spirits. To celebrate, people wear red clothes, hang red decorations, and write poems on red paper.
Why Red Envelopes
Money is given to young kids by their parents, grandparents, relatives and friends to offer some luck into the new year. Even the amount of money given follows cultural superstitions. The amount has to be even to reflect a happy occasion. Odd amounts are typically given out during sad occasions like funerals. Also the amount given should not contain the number four, which in Chinese means death.
Other Uses for Red Envelopes
The red envelope tradition is also celebrated among other Asian cultures. Korean, Vietnamese, Taiwanese and other Asian cultures celebrate good luck with red envelopes. At a wedding, guests leave their red envelopes on a table at the entrance and write their name on a scroll. A red envelope can also be given during a business transaction or meeting. The giver should hand the envelope over with both hands and the receiver should do the same.
So for all those good luck wishes you’d like to send out this year, a red envelope is the way to go.
Happy Chinese New Year!