One of the things children enjoy most about Chinese New Year is receiving red packets from elders.
I sure did when I was a kid!
Red packets are red-colored envelopes with money (bills or coins). Also called “lucky money”.
As a kid, I was always "feeling" the red packets to guess how much was inside.
Red packets hong2 bao1 红包 are given as a wish for good luck from married elders to children. In this tradition, those who are not married will receive red packets.
This definition of who will receive red packets unfortunately caused embarrassing situations where unmarried adults in their thirties are reminded of their unmarried status each Chinese New Year.
One think to remember: never, never open red packets in front of the elders. It’s a sign of disrespect!
The good luck is symbolized by the red color, which represents life, happiness and good luck.
Money makes children happy because they can use it to buy candy, toys and firecrackers. That’s in the past.
Nowadays, the amount of money given to children in red packets can be quite a large amount. Students use the money to pay for their school tuition and as pocket money.
Some parents have their children "regurgitate" the money received from others.
Red packets are placed under pillows. It is said that when evil spirits visit children in the middle of the night, the money in red packets can be used as a “bribe” to drive away the evil spirits.
In Chinese, red packet money is called ya1 sui4 qian2 压岁钱 . sui “age” has a similar sound to an evil spirit, so ya1 sui4 qian2 has the meaning of “press down on evil”.
Another traditional practice is to thread coins together with red string and place them beneath a child’s bed.