So, we talked about Chinese New Year before so now we’ll talk about something related. The giving of gifts, ranging from small gestures to hefty sums of money, is a large part of Chinese culture. This was something I found out early on but I’m still not 100% sure how it works!
During Chinese New Year and other celebratory events, such as weddings, adults—or people who are married and have their own families—traditionally give lai see envelopes to children, single people and employees. These envelopes tend to be red, the colour for good luck, and contain money.
The amount is usually an even number for luck. Popular amounts include lucky numbers such as eight or six, though the unlucky number four should be avoided. It is usually a good idea to keep a few spare envelopes on hand in case you run into anyone.
You shouldn’t open the envelope upon receiving it—looking at the amount of money given is considered rude. Although there’s always a bit of fun to be had when the time comes trying to guess how much you’ve been given.
So since we got married we had to start giving money to all the junior members of the family as well as all our employees. But now that we have a baby ourselves a lot of family members now have to give lai see to us. Also, some of the staff here are related to us and older so as well as me giving money to them they must give money to me. Also, it’s important to note that once you’ve given money this year you have to give at least that amount next year if not more, so don’t be too generous at the start!
But it’s also important that you hand the money to the person with both hands, wish them happy new year, or congrats on their wedding day etc and they must accept it with both hands as well and be sure to thank you appropriately. To be honest I’m still not sure if I’m doing it right half the time and I’m constantly surprised by the number of occasions when I give/receive “lai see” but if in doubt I always have plenty of people to ask. Then again they could just be taking my money for no reason at all… 🙂