CNY Overhaul 3 – The Year of the Rabbit and Red Envelopes

Happy Chinese New Year!!! Today is the first day of the New Year, hopefully everyone has cleaned their house and bought new clothes and plants, and if not, well, I’m not that superstitious anyway. Welcome the Year of the Rabbit! The custom is to go to a Buddhist Temple at midnight to welcome the deities of the heavens and earth as many believe it will bring longevity into their lives. My mom usually goes with my grandma. Fireworks are also huge but many cities have banned it due to fire hazards. I read in the newspaper two days ago that the Lunar New Year boasts the largest periodic internal migration in the world. It is basically the only time in the whole year that workers can have a break to go back home to see their families (this is China). That’s impossible to imagine for me because I’m not so great with visualizing numbers but it looks ridiculous!

Today, we talk about red envelopes as I know you guys are itching to receive some or maybe give some. Red envelopes or what we call Lai See in Cantonese is a custom practiced during special occasions and holidays, for example, birthdays, weddings and the Lunar New Year (Chinese New Year). The red envelope is a sign of good luck and is supposed to ward off evil sprits. During the Qing Dynasty, the elderly would thread coins on red strings to protect themselves from sickness and death. Today, it is given as a sign of blessing and good fortune. There are many rules ingrained in this custom. First, only elders and married couples hand out red envelops to those younger than themselves. Newly weds are expected to be more generous in giving so as to receive blessings for a blissful marriage. On birthdays, the birthday person is expected to give out red envelopes (unless they are unmarried or young, in which they receive instead of give). More importantly, if you are an elder or married and decide not hand out red envelopes (maybe you ran out) when others request for them, it means you are “out of luck”. To request a red envelop, you would say words of blessings to the giver (all are four characters long and many mean good fortune, joy, good health or good wealth). Second, the amount put into a red envelope must end in an even number, as odd numbers are associated with funerals. However, one never puts any amount that has the number 4 in it (i.e. 40) as 4 in Chinese means death. The money placed inside must also be new or at least look new. Third, it is rude to open red envelopes in front of the person who gave it to you, in fact, its bad luck to open red envelopes before the end of the New Year (remember, lasts for 15 days). I like to keep mine under my pillow and I seriously believe that the longer I leave it in there the larger amount of money I’ll receive. Fact. Red envelopes are getting quite spiffy; some designs look like serious thought has been put into it, which is always fun for the children. I, myself, used to be a collector. There is probably a bunch of other customs that I’ve missed and if you know any, feel free to drop a comment! Otherwise, happy giving and receiving =)

I know I’m not really showing the holiday through my pictures but I’ve been busy with school and work, however, the Lunar Festival in Vancouver starts on the 4th till the 11th (4-11pm) in Downtown on Granville and Robson (if anyone is from Vancouver and are interested) so I hope to get some pictures there. There is also a parade on Sunday at noon in Chinatown, however I wont be able to catch that cuz of church but I’ll definitely go to International Village for the Year of the Rabbit Celebration (Fri, sat, sun) for some picture taking after. Therefore! Pictures will come soon I promise =)

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2 thoughts on “CNY Overhaul 3 – The Year of the Rabbit and Red Envelopes

  1. ooOOo very nice post today! i learnt a lot 🙂 i guess about the history and where red envelopes come from! very good read! thanks!! i kinda knew some of them (which is a good sign i guess! ) and some i didnt know! i loove collecting the nice envelopes! and i still collect them! though i dotn get a lot of unique ones :O usualyl i get the boring ones that banks give out x) but there are the odd ones that are nice 😀 i have a whole box just for my red envelopes!!
    will be waiting for those pictures!!

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