Hongbao Money And Its Importance
Chinese New Year is a revered event given the good tidings the big day comes with, for both the young and old. The first day of the lunar year is often celebrated between January 21 and February 20 of every year. With the auspicious occasion, it is common to find people with not just any other envelop, but red envelopes often referred to as Hongbao.
What is Hongbao Money?
Hongbao money alludes to a long-running Chinese tradition that involves handing other people a gift of money packed in a red packet. The packets must be red as the color symbolizes luck, life, and happiness heading into the New Year.
The importance of Hongbao is not tied on the amount of money that one receives. Instead, it is about the red envelope. The red envelope symbolizes good wishes as well as luck in the new year ahead.
The History of Hongbao Money
As the legend goes, the custom of Hongbao money originates in ancient stories of Chinese New Year. It is said that sometimes back, there was a demon, known as Sui, which used to terrorize children while they slept in the eve of the Chinese New Year. Parents tried to protect their children by keeping them awake all night.
It is said that one parent decided to keep his child awake by giving him eight coins to play with throughout the night. However, the child could not keep his eyes awake and went on to fall in a deep slumber with the eight coins drifting on his pillow.
Later on, Sui, the demon that was fond of terrorizing children, appeared and tried to touch the child. To its surprise, the eight coins on the child’s pillow produced a powerful light that scared the demon eye. Today it is believed that the eight coins were immortals in disguise that protected the child. Likewise, the red envelope is symbolic of the eight coins, also known as ‘Suppressing Sui Money.’
Hongbao Money Guidelines
Contrary to perception, Hongbao money is not a precept of children alone. The red envelopes can be given to friends, colleagues as well as other relatives. Likewise, different amounts are customary to different relations. However, there some unique guidelines that govern the sharing of Hongbao money.
For starters, married adults can distribute Hongbao money to anyone except older, unmarried relatives. Married adults can only give out Hongbao money to unmarried younger siblings or cousins. On rare occasions, they can give it to older unmarried nephews. Likewise, older unmarried relatives cannot distribute Hongbao money to the younger generation.
Married couples, on the other hand, can distribute Hongbao money to children as well as single people. Similarly, older married people can give Hongbao money to young people. It is also common to find companies handing over Hongbao money to employees.
In Chinese custom, it is taboo or rude to anticipate Hongbao money. Likewise, it would not be wise to open the Hongbao red envelope right away in the presence of the giver. As good manners, accept the flat package with both hands and say thank you. You can open the red envelope once the giver is away.
Hongbao Money Amount
When filling the red envelope with Hongbao money, there are some guidelines to follow. For starters, new banknotes from the ATM are preferred as opposed to old notes. Coins, on the other hand, are considered bad style.
In addition, givers must avoid all amounts with number four in the red envelops. Four in Chinese sounds as ‘si,’ which translates to death, the worst thing one can wish someone at the start of a new year. Money with multiples of 80 or 800, on the other hand, are considered good, as eight in Chinese is associated with luck.
The money packed in the red envelope should also be in even number denomination as such amounts are associated with luck and good tidings in a new year. For lovers, it is common to hand over Hongbao with say something like 520 Yuan as five, two, and zero in Chinese translate to ‘I love you’.
In recent years, digital money has taken over, and traditional Hongbao money is under threat more than ever. Notes and coins are slowly becoming a thing of the past as the use of smartphones continues to take over. The culture of giving red envelopes in Chinese New Year also appears to have made a big leap into the future with the emergence of digital Hongbao.
WeChat and Alipay are the money transfer services that are spearheading the transition from traditional red envelopes to digital Hongbao, powered by mobile apps. Instead of Hongbao money being handed over in person, mobile apps come with digital red envelopes that enable the sending of Hongbao money from one smartphone to another.
The money inside the digital red envelops gets credited in the recipient’s digital wallet. Since its inception in 2014, digital red envelopes have eclipsed the traditional red envelops. In 2018, for instance, over 768 million people used WeChat to send and receive Hongbao money over the app.
How To Grow Hongbao Money
Just because of Hongbao money is a gift, does not mean it should be spent haphazardly. It is important to note a portion of the gift can be invested to generate more returns for future needs. While it is okay for kids to spend the money, parents should encourage them to save a significant portion from their Hongbao portion.
A culture of saving, nurtured while one is young, is essential. Therefore, parents should set a good example by saving up to 70% of their Hongbao money. This way, children would be able to save a substantial amount of their holdings instead of squandering it in items of no value.
Likewise, parents can invest part of their kids in Hongbao holding; risk-free financial products such as government bonds instead of letting it lie idle in the bank and depreciate in value due to inflation.