Guess what was my favorite things to do as a child during the Chinese New Year?
Helping my parents stuffing money into the Chinese New Year red envelopes.
Afterward, we were ready to go visit all my relatives and my parents’ friends. It took an entire week with all the traveling crisscrossing Hong Kong.
It was always fun to greet each family and relative with Chinese New Year Greetings. When we did they would give us a pair of red envelopes/ packets.
That my family tradition growing up, which I am passing onto my kids.
In this blog post, we’ll talk about the importance of Chinese New Year red envelopes, covering traditions, and customs.
I will also show you how to make them with your kids.
>> Detail of the free printable can be found at the bottom of this post.
The post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission, at no cost to you. If you make a purchase through a link. See the Disclosure for more details.
Table of Contents
Chinese New Year Traditions
A common Chinese New Year legend is the legend of the wild beast Nian. Using loud noises, red-colored items, and bright lights scares this beast away.
Chinese New Year was born from this legend.
Chinese New Year 15-days of traditions and activities. It starts with cleaning and decorating your house to welcome the new year. Then moves to the family feast, to bring blessings. Next is visiting families and friends. Chinese New year then ends with a Lantern Festival and eating sweet rice dumplings.
Chinese New Year Traditions to Do:
Chinese New Year Traditions to Do
- Deep clean your house
- Go to the Chinese New Year Flower Market to buy lucky flowers & decorations
- Decorate your home with Chinese New Year lanterns, and banners.
- Buy and wear Chinese clothing
- Check which Zodiac animal you are
- Attend Chinese New Year events
- Give red envelopes to pass on good fortune to others
- Visit friends & families
- Eat sweet rice dumplings
- Go to a Chinese Lantern Festival
Want to learn about other Chinese New Year traditions and activities?
Take a look at my All about Chinese New Year page.
Chinese New Year Red Envelopes and their Significance
Chinese New Year red envelopes in Mandarin is 紅包/红包 (hóng bāo/ hung4 baau1) or in Cantonese is 利是(lì shì/lei6 si6).
Red envelopes are small red and gold envelopes stuffed with money. These are hand out by married couples to the following:
- Nieces and nephews
- Children of friends
- Unmarried friends
- Employees (if you’re the boss)
- Your children
- Acquaintances’ children
The color red has the meaning of energy, happiness, and good luck. This is why the Chinese New Year Envelopes use this color.
Another Chinese legend says red envelopes keep children safe from the demon Sui, who would come after children when they were asleep on the Chinese New Year’s Eve. It called 壓歲錢/压岁钱 (yā sùi qián/ ngaat3 seoi3 cin2), and it blesses those who receive it with a year of safety and peace.
Nowadays, the red packets aren’t only in red color. Gold ones are very popular as well. My girls love pink ones and ones with Hello Kitty or Disney characters on them.
Chinese New Year Red Envelopes Custom
- Only use clean and crisp bills. Most people will go to the bank and get new bills for the Chinese New Year.
- Avoid the number 4
- Give even amounts. The numbers 6 and 8 are the best.
- Red envelopes can have different Chinese New Year greetings on the front. Choose appropriate greetings for each person.
- When receiving red packets, first offer a Chinese New Year greeting. Wish the giver good fortune and give blessings, then use both hands to take the red packets.
- Traditionally, children would kneel to receive red envelopes. Children would be in order from the oldest to the youngest.
- Don’t open red envelopes right away, wait until you go home
- Always prepare extra and carry some envelopes during the Chinese New Year. In case you bump into someone you may need to give on the street.
- Never use or give out white envelopes, they are for Chinese funerals.
Who gives out red Envelopes?
Traditionally, married couples give out red envelopes during the Chinese New Year.
But my parents’ friends who divorced or never married still gave me a single red envelope when we visited.
Traditions change over time and can depend on location. The ultimate purpose of giving out Chinese New Year red envelopes is to share blessings and happiness.
Other Occasions for Using Red Envelopes
Red envelopes are not limited only to use during the Chinese New Year.
It’s common to give red envelopes for other occasions as well. Here are a few:
- Bonus for employees
It’s a traditional way for Chinese people to wish others good luck, happiness, and good fortune.
After six years of living in Hong Kong, we were finally ready to move back to the United States. The night before we left my parents gave each of my children a pair of red envelopes with a blessing and a hug.
Whenever I attend a baby shower and have no idea what to give, I put cash in a red envelope to give as a gift. It’s a pretty convenient gift and to share a blessing too.
During Chinese wedding banquets, all guests give a red envelope with quite a bit of money inside as a gift. As they enter the dining hall the envelope is drop in a basket or giving to the receptionist.
How to Make Chinese New Year Red Envelopes
Learning the traditions and customs of red envelopes is fun. Even more fun is to be creative and to use them with your friends and family. It’s a great way to bring the Chinese culture into your family.
To help I have prepared Chinese New Year red envelopes (Free & Paid) for you to make with your kids. Now you can use them for any special occasion.
1. Print the red packet templates. Use normal paper, red construction paper, or cardstock.
2. Cut out the red envelopes
3. Fold along the dotted lines
4. Use glue or double-sided tape to secure the envelope
Decorating Your Red Envelopes
For younger kids, they can use a gold or yellow crayon or markers to trace Chinese characters. They can also add stickers.
Older kids can use gold glitter glue or a combination of white glue and gold glitter.
All the kids can help to place money inside or use it to decorate the house. Use them for any special occasion like the Chinese New Year or birthdays.
Grab your materials here right now!
Chinese Characters and Phrases to write on Red Envelopes
Just in case, if you have no idea what is appropriate to write on the red envelopes on different occasions, I created a list of lucky Chinese characters, pinyin & jyutping with English meaning.
You can simply find the right character or phrases, and then copy & write the following Chinese characters down on the red envelopes.
I hope it will make it easier for you.
These are the most common characters and phrases during the Chinese New Year.
Other Occasion to Write on Red Envelopes
~ Wedding ~
~ Graduation ~
Activities to Enhance learning Chinese with using Red Envelopes
Here is a list of activities you can include in red envelopes:
- Pretend Play (flower Market, birthday, newborn, Chinese wedding, etc)
- Make a Chinese New Year advent calendar with old red envelopes
- Make crafts out of red envelopes (lanterns, fish, firecrackers, flowers, plants, etc.)
- Decorate your home
- Practice saying Chinese New Year greetings
- Learn different family title in Chinese
- Send uplifting messages and put them into a red envelope
DIY Chinese New Year Red Envelopes Printable
- 招財進寶 (in one character)
I also included some plain templates for kids to create their own design of red envelopes.
Here are what my kids came out with:
Download the Free Version here
You can download the free one below & try it first.
Feel free to share your creations in the comments below.
Use the hashtag #fortunecookiemom or tag me @fortunecookiemom on Instagram and Facebook. We can celebrate together.
Want to try the FREE version? Fill out the form below and sign up!
If you have already subscribed to my email list, you can find this freebie in the Chinese Resource Library.
Which Chinese New Year red envelope template do you like the most?
How are you going to use the red envelopes during the Chinese New Year?
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身为职业妈妈的我,常常牺牲睡眠来自作教材。版主全方位学习的新年教材真让我省下不少宝贵的时间找资料。四岁的女儿对中文学习有点抗拒。我们善用版主提供的迷你故事书和生字卡来增强她对语文的认识。版主的中文单词棋盘游戏更让女儿投入学习, 因为她想赢嘛！版主的教材可让小孩边玩边学, 太棒了。
This is the second 5-Day Challenge that we have done with Fortune Cookie Mom. Both have been very beneficial to our family. I am a homeschool mom of three little kids. We are not Chinese and do not speak any Chinese. With the help of Fortune Cookie Mom, we are slowly learning! The challenges have given me fun activities to do at home with the kids. Each one has reignited my kid's interest in learning. It has been a fun experience for everybody!