My sister, cousins and I spoke solely English at residence, however we busted out our clumsy, off-key Cantonese (the Chinese language dialect our households converse) to recite the standard new 12 months’s greeting kung hei fats choy, which implies “wishing you happiness and prosperity.” As soon as uttered, this magic phrase introduced a shiny red-and-gold envelope into our eagerly awaiting arms.
When is fortunate cash given?
Fortunate cash envelopes—known as lai see in Cantonese and hong bao in Mandarin—are given to youngsters and, in some locations, seniors within the first two weeks of the Lunar New Yr, up till the primary full moon, a day known as the Spring Competition or Chinese language Lantern Competition (this 12 months, Feb. 5).
Usually, when you get married, it’s your flip at hand out envelopes, and also you’ll obtain fewer your self. There aren’t any onerous and quick guidelines, although—single adults may additionally give and obtain lai see. Folks usually give fortunate cash to their service suppliers. My dad and mom, for instance, carry pink envelopes for the servers at their common dim sum spot.
How a lot cash are we speaking?
In my youth, I acquired $5 or $10 from every relative and $20 from every mother or father. Usually, the nearer your relationship is to the recipient, the extra fortunate cash you give, however the quantity is much less necessary than the spirit through which it’s given—in Chinese language tradition, the color pink is a logo of happiness and good luck.
Fortunate cash isn’t restricted to Lunar New Yr. We additionally give and obtain lai see for particular events like birthdays, weddings, graduations and the delivery of a child. The envelopes now are available in a variety of colors and designs. You possibly can even get branded new 12 months’s envelopes from a few of Canada’s huge banks, whilst you’re choosing up the crisp new payments to place inside them (giving previous, wrinkly money is poor etiquette). And in Asia, you may ship digital “pink packets” by way of WeChat or AliPay.
What else to present for Chinese language New Yr?
When visiting family, many Chinese language households carry conventional new 12 months’s sweets and snacks. Oranges and clementines are additionally widespread presents.
Lunar New Yr has develop into extremely commercialized, even in international locations exterior of Asia. My inbox is filled with emails from way of life and luxurious manufacturers selling Yr of the Rabbit merchandise—every part from purses, jewelry and sweats to cosmetics, Lego units and yoga mats, some extra thought-about than others.
Deal with your self or a buddy in case you like, however don’t really feel pressured to purchase. In my expertise, new 12 months’s presents aren’t a part of the custom—and I hope it stays that means, particularly for the reason that Lunar New Yr comes after the spend-y vacation season that features Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa.