Holiday Tradition – China

Holiday Traditions

Chinese New Year/Traditions, Red Envelopes

Marissa described the Chinese New Year as a very family-oriented holiday, celebrating the beginning of a new year. Every year, a close friend or relative of hers has a party consisting of a big meal and a variety of little traditions.

The biggest tradition is when the older generation gives the younger generation red envelopes with money inside. Marissa said the amount depends on the person giving it and his or her relation to the recipients. The closer you are to a person, the more money will be inside the envelope. She has seen a range of everything from one dollar to $20. The reason behind this tradition is simply to kickoff a person’s good fortune for the upcoming year, she said.

In order to receive a red envelope, you must say (in Cantonese) “Kung hei fat choi,” which loosely translates to “Congratulations and be prosperous” in English.

Red is an important color on this holiday. People, decorations, and the envelopes are all adorned with red, as it is the color of good fortune and happiness

The meal consists of the typical traditional Chinese dishes of meat, vegetables and rice. Marissa also mentioned that sweets play an important role, and there is always a tray of candies, mooncakes (pastry), mochi (pounded rice balls), and crackers, though she can’t remember why or what they mean.

Because Marissa grew up with this tradition, she often does not know the meaning behind certain things. However, she said she truly enjoys it.

The Chinese New Year is a widely publicized occasion that is a good example of how foreign celebrations can become assimilated into a different culture entirely. I was taught the Chinese New Year traditions in my California elementary school, for example.


Bae, Hyun J. New Clothes For New Year’s Day. South Korea: Kane Miller Book Pub, 2007.