The Legend of Chinese New Year Red Envelopes

(Because this is a pretty straight forward article, there will not be a summary. Sorry, for the inconvenience.)

The Myth...

Traditionally, people will put a hundred coins in a red packet, which means good fortune for a hundred years. Due to the passage of time, Chinese natives created more than one story to explain the Chinese legend of the red envelope. I will concentrate on the two most common stories in China.

The First Legend...

There was a demon appearing in a village. Every night the demon had a tendency to touch the heads of the children when they are asleep. Because of this some children became sick and some actually died.

When Spring Festival came around, there was an older couple (in their 50s) who just had a baby for the first time in the village. They were scared that the demon would take their kid away. They prayed to the god. As result, eight fairies heard their prayers.

To draw the demon's attention, the eight fairies turned themselves into eight coins. The parents wanted to protect the child so they placed the eight coins on the infant's pillow to protect the baby's head.

When the next night fell, the demon approached the child. It reached its hand out and was about to touch the child. Then a shining red light came out from the coins inside the pillow, so bright that it blocked the demon's vision.

The demon was frightened and started to run away. The parents told the village what had happened and from that point on everyone put coins under their children's pillows.

From ancient times, people have believed that giving children money in a red packet will bring them luck and keep away bad events in their lives.

Red packets

Legend of the Forbidden City...

The second legend started in the Forbidden City and occurred in the year 618 (Tang dynasty). The queen gave birth to a prince. As a gift to the child, the emperor Taizong wrapped ingots of gold inside red papers to bring luck to the newborn. From that point on, everyone followed in the king's footsteps.

From the Chinese perspective, giving money to children in Spring Festival is a must. There are two interpretations. First, not only does the money encourage children to be good in the upcoming year, but it also teaches children how to be respectful to the elders.

The children will only get the money if they wish the elders good fortune and Happy New Year. The most common phase you will hear is "Gong Xi Fa Cai" meaning good fortune.

The second interpretation is that money will protect the child in the coming year. You may ask why people think that way since money can't help the child with anything other than bad habits such as becoming a gold digger (hehe). The reason is that the red packet represents good luck and good fortune to a child as it was told in the legend.

Furthermore, another way look at it is the elder is wishing happiness and luck back to the children. Because the children have a long life ahead of them, they will need all the luck they can get.

How old is too old to receive red packets? The rule is everyone who has not yet married can get a red packet. So, if you are in your 30s or in George Clooney's case in the 50s and still don't have a family then yes, you are qualified (hehe). You can pick up some envelope here (40-Pack Red Flowers)

From the Chinese viewpoint, having a family is a must. If you do not have family then you do need luck. This is very different from the West where if you are old and do not have a family it may mean that you are ambitious or want to become successful.

Thank you for checking in, everybody. From where I am and wherever you are, have a warm night and good luck everyone.

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Raphita Tobing