Red Packet 红包
The Red Packet, 红包 (Hong bao, ang pow) is a rectangle envelope used for holding money as gifts during auspicious occasions. Red packets are usually red with auspicious characters, designs or symbols although gold colored red packets are also popular. Some red packets are in different shades of red and even pink.
Use of Red Packets
The most visible use of red packets is during the Chinese New Year when elders give red packets to children or members of the younger generation.
Red packets are also used for other auspicious and social occasions such as weddings, birth of a new child, birthdays, house warming gift, promotions or as a thank you gesture. During these occasions, the red packet is given by the well wisher to the host.
The amount of money used for each occasion depends on the relationship between the giving and receiving parties, social standing as well as the context.
Art of "Red Packeting"
In any case, the amount of money given is always even number and amounts ending with 8 are very popular as the number 8 sounds like prosperity. Depending of the currency base, the most popular amounts are 8, 18, 168, and 888.
An amount that is usually avoided despite ending with eight is 38 especially during weddings as “3” and “8” when used together sometimes refers to an unpleasant woman.
An amount that ends or involves 4 is usually avoided as 4 in Mandarin and most Chinese dialects sounds like death. The worse amount to give in a red packet is 44.
It is usual for guest to write their names or some words of good wishes on the reverse side of the red packet to identify the party who gave the red packet.
Distribution of Red Packets
Red packets are in high demand during the Chinese New Year and many companies use this opportunity to offer a set of red packets to customers who buy their products or patronize their services.
Others prefer to buy specially designed red packets especially if it is used during non Chinese New Year events. These red packets are designed with their family names or with the double happiness symbol for use during wedding.
Giving red packets is a simple but highly flexible system to present a gift. This is especially true for celebrations outside of the Chinese New Year period. To many Chinese, it is considered rude to ask for specific gifts and if unsure of preferences and tastes of the host, giving a gift of cash in a red packet overcomes these issues.
Red Packet art
As red packets are readily available especially during the Chinese New Year season, they are often use to produce ornaments as New Year decorations.
Popular items include lanterns, scrolls and fire crackers. These ornaments are used in homes and also businesses to create a new year ambience.