Red Envelope Giving is Weird

It’s Chinese New Year’s Eve and red envelopes are a must. As a child, I LOVED this time. Who doesn’t love getting money (but to be honest, the money always went to the parents.) Now, I’m older, I’m able to receive but also am required to give red envelopes.

When Do I Start Giving Red Envelope?

This differs from house to house. Some say the moment you start working and getting paid, while some are as late as you have your first-born. The most common, though, is when you get married. For my family, it’s whenever you start work.

NOTE: When do you stop receiving red envelope also differs, but don’t worry your parent should always have your covered.

How Much Money to Give?

There are some common rules, don’t do odd number and avoid the number four. However, the amount is always the question. There are articles to come out explaining the amount, but in the end it comes down to family standards. While some say the red envelope you give to grandparents are less than your own parents, but my family is different. This leads to why I think red envelopes are weird.

Red Envelopes are Business Transactions

While some may say red envelopes and cash exchange is the best form of gift exchange because of the direct reciprocity (Sheldon Cooper would approve.)

However, because of the directness, it becomes a transactional process. There are set standards of how much people are suppose to give. People have to negotiate to talk about the amount to make sure everything is fair. While this is all going on, everything is kept like a secret. We might as well open up a Google Sheet for the family to determine the amount and make sure all the books are balanced too. On the other hand, it’s a lot more fun for non-traditional families, a simple amount and just have the cheers. But it would be great if we could transition to gift giving. Imagine if Chinese New Year eve was just like Christmas Eve. Maybe next time I’ll just get a gift and wrap it in red wrapping paper instead.


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