Chinese New Year: What are Red Packets?

Jonny Blair talks about Chinese New Year red packets

Chinese New Year: What are red packets?

You have probably heard of Chinese New Year. It’s the same as New Year except it’s Chinese. That’s where things become slightly different. If you are lucky enough to live in a Chinese environment during Chinese New Year you will love the whole craze and madness of it all. You might also be given red packets. But what are red packets?

Jonny Blair red packets at Chinese New Year

Every Chinese New Year red packets with money in them are given out – what are red packets?

OK so I’ve been in Hong Kong at Chinese New Year twice now and I’ve been handed red packets by friends, family and work colleagues. At the beginning I wondered what they were, why they are handed out and what they mean. Here’s a few answers for you.

What are red packets? What are red envelopes?

OK so there are two words used, they are either red packets or red envelopes. For the sake of this blog post, we’ll call them red packets, as the majority of people I have met in Hong Kong call them that. It’s an old Chinese tradition to hand out gifts at Chinese New Year. Here’s a beginners guide to red packets, in list form for ease 😉

– Only people who are married hand out red packets (normally)

– Red packets are also sometimes given out by bosses and managers even if they are not married

– Red packets are handed out at Chinese New Year, normally just after the actual Chinese New Year’s Day

– Red packets are small packets containing money inside, given as a present

Jonny Blair with red packets in Hong Kong for Chinese New Year 2013

Me with my red packets in Hong Kong for Chinese New Year 2013

– Red packets symbolise good luck

– Red packets are supposed to ward off evil spirits

– Red packets are handed out in almost all Chinese Countries and Chinese communities around the world

– In Chinese culture, red is a colour for good fortune and happiness

– Red packets do NOT actually have to be red believe it or not (I received lots of these packets this year and the majority of mine were NOT red – red is just the most frequent colour used for them)

A lifestyle of travel with red packets for Chinese New Year

Red packets do not have to be red – here’s some of mine from this year – multi coloured!

– The amount of money inside these red packets has to be an even digit (e.g. 10, 20, 30, 50, 100, 500)

– The amount of money SHOULD NOT end in an odd digit (this is reserved for funerals)

– The number “4” is similar to the word for “death” in Chinese language so no red packets should ever have an amount of money with a “4” in it (e.g. 14, 40, 140, 400, 564 etc.)

– Do not open the red packets in front of the person who gave you them – I actually open mine alone!

Happy Chinese New Year 2013! From Don't Stop Living

Happy Chinese New Year 2013!

Red packets vary in different areas of Chinese Culture:

– In Hong Kong red packets are given to all unmarried people within the family, work and social circle

– In most of China, red packets are given to children

– In parts of Northern China, the money is given on its own NOT in red packets

Jonny Blair at a Chinese New Year Fair in Hong Kong

Red packets are the craze during Chinese New Year in Hong Kong

How to say Happy Chinese New Year in Cantonese (Guangdonghua):

Sung Ning Figh Lok – Happy Chinese New Year

Gung Hey Fat Choy – A Chinese New Year wish for fortune and wealth

Tsing Chung Jun Jew – A Chinese New Year wish for staying young and beautiful

(bear in mind these are my own spellings so that I can pronounce them properly!)

Chinese New Year in Hong Kong - Chinese greetings

Some Chinese Good luck greetings for Chinese New Year.

Other Cultures and Packets:

– In South Korea they have a similar concept but they do it with white envelopes

– In Muslim states such as Malaysia and Indonesia they use green envelopes

Jonny Blair in Guangzhou in China

Doing China – LOVE it – a recent trip to Guangzhou!

Travelling in China:

You might have read that I LOVE travelling in China, so as it’s Chinese New Year (of the snake this year), here are a random 6 Chinese travel stories, of which I have tons more to add!!:

3 World Heritage Sites in China that You’ve Never Heard of!

How to get a China Visa in Hong Kong

Tiger Leaping Gorge, Yunnan Province

Vagina Rock, Guangdong Province

Ganden Sumtseling Gompa, (Tibetan Monastery)

Xiamen, Fujian Province


On a final note I wish you all a VERY HAPPY CHINESE NEW YEAR!!!!

A video of me with my red packets for Chinese New Year 2013:

Key Songs:



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