How much money should you put in a red envelop?


Gift giving is a social, cultural and economic phenomenon that permeates national and cultural boundaries. Gift giving highlights the significance of relationship between the giver and the receiver. I see gift giving as the selection of a gesture that hopefully will translate and transfer the evaluation of both material and sentimental objects that were needed to maintain a social relationship. Gift giving could be examined under different categories, including family member to family member, friend-to-friend, business-to-business, group-to-group, or nation-to-nation.

For the Chinese culture, giving gift and give the right and appropriate gift is emphases heavily. And the Chinese do not usually accepts a gift, invitation or favor when it is first presented, and will politely refuse two or three times to reflect modesty.They give different types of gift, but money is the one gift they give to others very often. The amount of money they give to individual is determined by the occasion, connection/relationship, economic background, and age. For example, as a kid, you will always receive a red envelop from parents, grandparents, and close relatives on the New Year. The amount of money that is in the red envelop is varies from family to family based on the family income. However, when children grow up, the amount of money they give to the elders should be a fair amount, most time a lot more than what they will receive as kids. Red envelop is also one of the gifts given to the married couple when the guests attend their wedding ceremony. And of course, closer your relationship to the bride and the groom, the more money is expected. But for all occasions, certain amounts of money are to be avoided. Any amount with a four is best avoided because the pronounciation  sounds similar to the pronounce of word death in chinese, 四 (sì, four) and 死 (, death). Other than the number four, most even numbers are better than odd number. Amount with a three, six, eight and nine is very popular to put in a red envelop.

Learning the “rules” and the tradition of giving money in Chinese culture. What is your opinion on giving people money as a gift? If you were to receive red envelop from your parents, how much would you expect per envelop? If you were to live in China for years, will you try to adopt the cultures by  giving people envelop? And how much would you give in terms of the number?


Chinese Culture: Chinese Gift-Giving Etiquette by Lauren Mack

If you want to read more about gift giving in the Chinese culture, please visit the following websites.

The Art of Giving Gifts in China



One thought on “How much money should you put in a red envelop?”

  1. My family always celebrates Chinese New Year with the giving of the red envelope. My parents adopted me and my younger sister when we were babies from China and they adopted my brother from Vietnam when he was a baby. We always celebrate Chinese New Year and Tet (the Vietnamese name for the same holiday). The amount of money that goes in the envelope for me had depended on what my parents want to give us. It was only a couple of dollars when I was younger and it has been 20 dollars recently as we are now teenagers. It’s more about tradition for us and less about the amount of money that is given. I do not know how my parents learned about the tradition, but my guess is it’s from an organization they belonged to called Families with Children from China. This organization teaches white American parents about how to raise Chinese kids. So my parents learned about the red envelope tradition, even though they never grew up with it and they never celebrated Chinese New Year when they were growing up in the US.
    There are other situations when my family gives money as gifts. Even though we are not Jewish, we learned about giving money to friends who are having bar mitzvahs. We also sometimes give money for graduation from high school gifts. But we celebrate Christmas in a big way and we would not normally give money to our relatives on Christmas, even if we do not have any idea what we should give them. It would be more economically efficient to just give money to people. But when we really can’t think of anything we give our relatives gift cards, to Itunes or Amazon. Why don’t we just give them money? It must be a cultural expectation that I never recognized before. I just grew up expecting money on Chinese New Years, and a present or a gift card on Christmas.
    What does a Chinese person think about white people who like the red envelope tradition and start celebrating New Years by giving money? Do they feel flattered that their tradition is spreading? Or do they feel like their culture is being stolen by white people?


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