The literal translation for Hong Bao is Hong = Red and Bao = Envelope / Packet. Red is considered a lucky color in Chinese culture and can also be referred to as “Lucky Envelope”.
The Hong Bao’s are equivalent to cards you give/receive on special occasions. The difference is that the packets are universal and can be used for any event, versus cards that are written and designed for distinct occasions (birthdays, weddings, etc.). Messages are usually written on the blank side of the envelope with well wishes and signed by the sender. The best part of all: the envelopes are filled with crisp new bills!
Hong Bao’s are most commonly given to children throughout the Lunar New Year / Spring Festival period by family members. Hong Bao’s are also used for weddings, tokens of appreciation, graduations, and work bonuses! Children shouldn’t look into their packets right away but should put them under their pillow to ward off bad spirits.
When filling the packets with money, avoid any amount with a four in it! The number 4 is a very unlucky number in Chinese culture because the pronunciation for “four” sounds very similar to the word “death” and has similar superstitions surrounding it similar to “13” in Western culture (e.g., in China, buildings will omit a “4th” floor like how some buildings in the West omits a “13th” floor).
- Printable Red Envelope Hong Bao