WHY ARE RED ENVELOPES (HONGBAO) GIVEN DURING CHINESE NEW YEAR?
新年好! We get to celebrate new year, twice over. Get your puns ready, we hope you have a roaring 2022, it’s not only the year of the tiger but I guess we are in the twenties. Anyway, today we’re going to delve into one of the very traditional customs synonymous with Chinese New Year. That is of course the fabulous red envelope/packets that are given out each Spring Festival with lucky money inside, as a way to send good wishes and blessings for the coming year. As a child I used to love collecting these, still do actually. It’s no surprise they are red, symbolizing happiness and good fortune in Chinese culture.
Let’s learn a few keywords and some Chinese New Year greeting phrases that you can use this tiger year.
Hóngbāo (红包) – Red packet/envelope
*Given on important occasions not just Chinese New Year, but also on birthdays and weddings.
Yāsuìqián (压岁钱) – The Lucky money inside the hongbao
Gōngxǐ fācái（恭喜发财）- Wish you wealth and prosperity
*The most common or well-known Chinese New Year greeting phrase
Chinese New Year Greetings for 2022
Hǔ nián dàjí (虎年大吉) - Wishing you luck in the year of the Tiger!
Hǔ hǔshēng wēi (虎虎生威) - Wishing you full of vigour and vitality of the tiger.
Lóngténghǔyuè (龙腾虎跃) - Dragon soaring and Tiger leaping (Wish you thrive with prosperity in the new year)
Let’s learn the legend behind why lucky money is given in these red envelopes.
Guānyú yāsuì qián，yǒu zhèyàng yí gè gùshì. Chuánshuō， gǔ shíhou yǒu yí gè jiào ‘Suì’ de xiǎo yāoguài，chúxī wǎnshang huì chūlái mō shúshuì xiǎohái de tóu.
There is such a story about the lucky money. Legend has it that in ancient times there was a little monster called ‘Sui’, who would come out on New Year's Eve to touch the head of a sleeping child.
yāsuì qián (压岁钱) – lucky money/new year’s money
yāoguài (妖怪) – monster
chúxī (除夕) – New year’s eve
shúshuì (熟睡) – fast asleep
Xiǎohái bèi xià de dà kū，ránhòu jiù huì tóuténg、fāshāo， biànchéng shǎzi. Dàrén men pà Suì lái shānghài xiǎo háizi，suǒyǐ jiù zài chúxī de wǎnshang bú shuìjiào，shǒuhù háizi，zhè yě jiào “shǒu suì ”.
The child was frightened and cried heavily, then had a headache, a fever, and became a fool. Adults are afraid of ‘Sui’ harming children, so they don't sleep on New Year's Eve to protect their children, protecting the child is also called shǒu suì.
shānghài (伤害) – to harm, hurt
shǒuhù (守护) – to guard, protect
Yǒu yì jiā rén，tāmen fūqī liǎ fēicháng ài háizi. Yǒu yì nián de chúxī wǎnshang，fūqī liǎ dānxīn háizi shuì zháo le，suì lái shānghài háizi，jiù ná chū bā méi tóngqián gěi háizi wánr.
There was a family who loved their children very much. One year on New Year's Eve, the couple was worried that the child would fall asleep and ‘Sui’ would come and hurt the child, so they took out eight copper coins for the child to play with.
fūqī (夫妻) – couple
liǎ (俩) – two
tóngqián (铜钱) – copper coins
Háizi wán lèi le，shuì zháo le，tāmen jiù yòng hóngzhǐ bǎ bā méi tóngqián bāo qǐ lái，fàng zài háizi de zhěntou xiàmiàn.
When the child was tired from playing and fell asleep, they picked up eight copper coins and wrapped it with red paper and put them under the child's pillow.
zhěntou (枕头) – pillow
Fūqī liǎ shǒu zhe háizi，bù gǎn bìyǎn. Dào le shēnyè，tūrán yǒu yí zhèn fēng bǎ fáng mén chuī kāi le，làzhú yě bèi chuī miè le. Fūqī liǎ dōu hěn hàipà，tāmen zhīdào zhè shì Suì lái le.
The couple guarded the child and dared not close their eyes. Late at night, suddenly a gust of wind blew the door open and the candles were blown out. The couple were very scared, they knew it ‘Sui’ was coming.
bì yǎn (闭眼) – close your eyes
shēnyè (深夜) – late at night
làzhú (蜡烛) – candles
chuī miè le (吹灭了) – blown out
Zhèngdāng Suì yào qù mō xiǎo háizi de tóu de shíhou，zhěntou biān fā chū yí dào jīn sè de guāng，xià de Suì gǎnkuài táopǎo le.
Just as he was about to touch the child's head, a golden light emitted from the pillow, frightened Sui so that he ran away quickly.
Zhèngdāng (正当) – just when
táopǎo le (逃跑了) – to escape
Yuánlái，zhè bā méi tóngqián shì Bā Xiān biànchéng de， tāmen bāngzhù háizi bǎ Suì xià pǎo le.
It turned out that these eight copper coins were turned (into light) by the Eight Immortals, who helped the children to scare the evil away.
Bā Xiān (八仙) – Eight immortals
biàn chéng (变成) – to turn, transform into
Fūqī liǎ bǎ zhè jiàn shì gàosù le línjū men，hòulái měi nián de chúxī，rénmen dōu huì yòng hóngzhǐ bāo shàng tóngqián fàng zài háizi de zhěntou xià miàn，zhèyàng，Suì jiù bù gǎn lái le.
夫妻俩把这件事告诉了邻居们，后来每 年的除夕，人们都会用红纸包上铜钱放在孩子的枕头 下面，这样，祟就不敢来了。
The couple told the neighbours about it, and on New Year's Eve every year, people would wrap copper coins in red paper and put them under the children's pillows, so that ‘Sui’ would not dare to come.
Yīnwèi “祟” hé “岁”dúyīn yíyàng，suǒyǐ hòulái jiù biàn chéng le “yā suì qián ”.
Because the pronunciation of "祟" and "岁" are the same, it later became "压岁钱".
*as Suì (岁) also has the meaning of year other than age.
To listen to our narration of 压岁钱, please search our videos section on our site or watch it on YouTube via the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sRgVhSTOdDE&t=16s
Answer the questions below to see if you understand the story.
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