Guide to Lucky Red Envelopes

Guide to Lucky Red Envelopes

Lucky Red Envelopes—also known as "hongbao" in Mandarin, “lai see” in Cantonese, or "bao lì xì" in Vietnamese—are an essential part of Lunar New Year in the Chinese and Vietnamese traditions. They symbolize good luck and prosperity, and the custom of giving and receiving lucky red envelopes is a source of joy for all during the holiday.

The tradition of giving red envelopes has its origins in some of the oldest stories of Chinese New Year. According to legend, there was a demon called Sui who would terrorize children while they slept on New Year's Eve. To protect their children, parents would try to keep them awake all night. One year, a child was given eight coins to play with in order to stay awake. However, the child eventually fell asleep with the coins on his/her pillow. Sui appeared and tried to touch the child, but the coins (which were actually the mythological Eight Immortals in disguise) emitted a powerful light that scared the demon away.

Today, the red envelope, symbolizing the coins, represents good luck and protection from evil spirits.

While the tradition primarily focuses on children, red envelopes are also given to friends, family, colleagues, and other relatives. The exchange of lucky red envelopes symbolizes the sharing of blessings and good wishes between family members, friends, and loved ones.

Designing these red envelopes for Bo & Mei's Year of the Dragon collection was as thrilling as receiving them as a child, knowing the joy they will bring to so many people’s Lunar New Year celebrations.

We have three different designs in the collection, all featuring our dragon graphic for our Year of the Dragon kits. Both the Prosperity Box and Togetherness Box include a pack of 6 (a lucky number in Chinese culture, sounding like “flow” and symbolizing good fortune). 

How to give lucky red envelopes:

1. Prepare crisp, new bills inside the envelope. Ensuring that the bills are new and in good condition demonstrates the giver's sincerity and respect.

2. How much to give?

  • Even numbers are considered auspicious. In Chinese culture, odd numbers are associated with funerals, so it is best to avoid them when giving lucky red envelopes. The amount given in red envelopes should never include the number 4—so no 4, 40, or 400 amounts—as the pronunciation of ‘four’ in Chinese sounds like the word for death. However, amounts including the numbers 6 (”smooth”) and 8 will bring good luck and prosperity.
  • When gifting to kids ages 1-10, give 6 or 8 crisp $1 bills; they will be sure to delight! Younger kids will also appreciate coins.
  • You don’t have to gift cash money to the littles in your life. Stuff your red envelopes with stickers, temporary tattoos, or any other small goody that you know kids will love.
3. Present the envelope to the recipient using both hands as a sign of respect. This gesture shows your sincerity and respect towards the recipient. It is also important to make eye contact and offer a warm smile while presenting the envelope.

    How to receive a lucky red envelope:

    Receiving a lucky red envelope is considered fortuitous. Whether from family or friends, it is customary to graciously accept the envelope, also with both hands, and express gratitude to the giver. Children should bow or kneel when receiving red envelopes as a sign of respect.

    There’s more you can do with lucky red envelopes! Check out our Guide to Making a Lucky Money Tree here.

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