Chinese New Year: Red Envelopes

Main Piece:

The following was transcribed from an interview between the informant and the interviewer:

“So one of the traditions that we have during the Chinese New Year celebration is for older relatives to give younger relatives red envelopes which contain money inside.”

Context: I collected this piece of folklore during an over the phone interview. My informant is a Chinese American who resides in California. Her family participates in these tradition every year.

My Thoughts:

According to my informant, the money is supposed to be a symbol for wealth and prosperity going into the new year. So older relatives giving it to younger relatives is wishing the younger relatives success in the coming new year. My informant also told me that red symbolizes luck in the Chinese tradition. So, the red envelopes are meant to give the younger generations luck to help them with their success. The giving of the red envelopes to the younger generation symbolizes the culture’s idea of bringing up and supporting the youth towards prosperity. My informant also told me that as soon as you get married you are supposed to stop receiving red envelopes and start giving them. This makes sense because as soon as you get married then you are expected to start making the next generation. Therefore, you are making the transition from being dependent on elders to help support to being someone that the youth can depend on.