Money can be a taboo topic, especially when with friends or family. In China, however, it is not taboo to get excited about giving and getting money. This is why red envelopes are a fun tradition around the holidays! And by holidays, I mean any and all holidays.
Taobao, the Chinese equivalent of AliExpress, owned by the same multi-billionaire, offers a fun game where they give out red envelopes to customers who spend a certain amount of money! When we lived in China, these events happened regularly, not just around the holidays. Friends would get together and one would send out red envelopes in WeChat.
WeChat is the Chinese equivalent of Facebook except it does so much more. When people meet up, they often create a group on WeChat so everyone can communicate. At the end of the evening, someone sometimes sends a red envelope. This is an icon that looks like the traditional red envelope (often given out on Lunar New Year) and the sender can chose how much money is in it and how many people can get the money.
For example, if there are ten people in the group, the sender can set it so that everyone gets a random amount of money. Or, they can make it so that just one or a few people get the total sum – it is first come, first served, so those who are staring at their phone and have the fastest internet reap the rewards!
WeChat also has an option for leaving a red envelope in any random location. You can turn on your red envelope radar and walk around the city, collecting red envelopes that strangers have left behind! It’s like geocaching but with money. It’s so much fun, even though you usually only get a few RM. It’s customary to give as much as you get so you end up breaking even in the end.
“(The red envelopes) are called hongbao in Mandarin and lai see in Cantonese. The term “red packets” has also come into common use, though hongbao look and function more like envelopes than packets.
Chinese people love the color red, and regard red as the symbol of energy, happiness and good luck. Sending red envelopes is a way to send good wishes and luck (as well as money).
Actually, the significance of red envelopes is the red paper, not the money inside. Wrapping lucky money in red envelopes is expected to bestow more happiness and blessings on the receivers. Hence, it is impolite to open a red envelope in front of the person who gives it to you.
The Chinese New Year red envelope is a traditional gift for children during Chinese New Year. In China, the red envelope is called yasui qian (压岁钱 /yaa-sway chyen/), which means ‘suppressing ghosts money’. Those who receive a red envelope are wished another safe and peaceful year.” – China Highlights