The History of the Red Envelopes and How to Use them in the Year of the Rooster 2017. (Hong Bao, Lai See, Ang Pow, Sae Bae Don, Ang Bao)

The History of the Red Envelopes and How to Use them in the Year of the Rooster 2017. (Hong Bao, Lai See, Ang Pow, Sae Bae Don, Ang Bao)

We post updates all year round on our Feng Shui blog and Facebook so bookmark them now below and keep checking back…

Are you prepared for 2017 year of the Yin Fire Rooster

Are you really prepared for 2017?

2017 Chinese astrology and Feng Shui guide Feng Shui Software 2017 Cures and Enhancers
2017 Chinese Animal Predictions 2017 Flying Star Analysis

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ang pow 2017Ang Pow 2017

For children and teenagers celebrating Chinese New Year, the Ang Pow is a very exciting part of the celebrations. Even though they are often referred to as red envelopes they are also coloured in a golden colour as red and gold to the Chinese are seen as very auspicious. Red envelopes have many different names; they are more commonly known as “Ang Pow” “red packets” “lai see” “laisee” “hung bao” or “hung-bao”. These envelopes are seen as very lucky when given as a gift and even more fortunate when they contain some money. The main use of red envelopes is for Chinese New Year, birthdays, weddings or any other important event.

In recent years, a lot of companies have added their own take to the Ang Pow by adding their company branding on the front which may not necessarily bring good fortune to the receiver although it is nice to see western companies taking on eastern traditions. Some very popular Ang Pow’s in China these days are made with cartoon characters on the front such as hello kitty and Pokémon and you can find them all across the world.

The image on the front of an Ang Pow is traditionally a symbolisation of blessings and good wishes of long life, success and good health to the receiver of the envelope and is a great honour to receive. In modern life, the artists who design the red envelopes have found new ways to improve the message of good luck over the years and have incorporated different designs to enhance the meaning such as carps swimming among flowering lotus Lilly, the fabled creatures of Dragon and Phoenix, Chinese zodiac animals relevant to the year that the envelopes will be used, peonies displayed in full bloom, the three immortals, golden pineapples, Buddha’s and children and many other intricate designs.

We send out Red Envelopes free with every order to clients as our thank you and blessing of good luck; the red envelopes that we send contain a Chinese i-ching coin for extra luck in the year of the Yin Fire Rooster 2017.

All of these Ang Pows bear very stunning artwork and over the years, we have both given and received some truly stunning Ang Pows both from and to friends, clients and family. As a company, we carefully choose every single design that goes on our red envelopes that we order as the quality and presentation is very important that is portrayed on the envelopes.

The history of the Ang Pow red envelope.

There are no clear literary sources to trace the origin of the red envelopes. Some say that the history of the “ang pow” dates right back to the Sung Dynasty in China. A village called Chang-Chieu was being terrorised at the time by a huge demon. There was nobody in the village that was able to defeat the demon, not even their greatest warriors or statesmen until a young orphan came along armed with a magical sword which he had inherited from his ancestors and he fought the evil demon and eventually killed it. The villagers were triumphant and the elders presented the brave young man with a red envelope (more like a red pouch I would imagine) filled with money for his courage in saving them all from the demon. Others say during the Qin Dynasty, elderly people would thread coins with a red string which was called yā suì qián which translates to “suppressing age money” and the reason they were used was because they were seen to protect the elderly from sickness and death and stop those of all ages from growing old. When printing presses became more common place, the yasui qian (压岁钱) was replaced with red envelopes (Ang Pow’s).

A common Chinese New Year Greeting that awaits any adult visiting a household with children will be: “Gōng Xǐ Fā Cái, Hóng Bāo Ná Lái“, this means “Best wishes for the New Year, may I have my Red Envelope please?” It sounds a bit cheeky asking for money this way but it is traditional and acceptable.

How much money should you place inside a red envelope?

This all depends on your situation. If you are giving ang pow envelopes to children for Chinese New Year, age will be an important factor. The usual practice is that as you get older you usually tend to receive a bit more each year. For a 5 year old child, £2 GBP will be fine. The amount contained has to be in even numbers.

For example:

Two pounds, eight pounds, ten pounds or twenty pounds are all auspicious amounts.

Chinese EnvelopeGiving red packets to employees before the Chinese New Year is also very common. This can be either a gift or a bonus. It is also believed that when you present them with your gift, their good fortunes will come back to your company.

The number of coins or notes that are placed in the red envelope may take advantage of the Chinese homophones. For example: you can give a favourable amount ending with eight (8), this sounds like fortune in Chinese; or nine (9) which sounds like longevity. Four (4) is not a good number to give as it sounds like death. You should always make sure that you give money in even numbers because unlucky numbers are considered inauspicious, although receiving a single Chinese i-ching coin in a red envelope is considered very fortunate and the reason why we give these away as a gift to our customers.

You will also see red envelopes being “fed” to the Chinese lion’s mouth during the many lion dances; this is said to bring good luck for the year ahead to those who feed the lion a red envelope and is considered a donation for the lion dancers team who work extremely hard and have to be super fit and healthy as this can become very tiring!

They really are a lovely way to present a gift and also used to pay a Feng Shui Master or consultant. When giving someone an Ang Pow, you should hand it over with both hands and also receive it with both.

Whenever you give money to someone on a festive or auspicious occasion such as a birthday, wedding or something similar, you should never give money in a white envelope as it is believed that you will face the bitterness of the receiver. Although saying this, if you lived in South Korea, the traditional envelope colour is white and not red with the receiver’s name written on the back. When a gift of money is received at a gloomy occasion such as a funeral to help cover the costs of the funeral; when this is the case, it is called “Pak Kum” which is when money for the family of the departed is donated. So if you ever come across a Chinese client, please think twice before you hand their fee to them in a white envelope as this could offend them although this is less common in our western countries nowadays.

 

Common names for Red Envelopes:

In China where Mandarin is the national language, the red envelope is known as “hong bao”.

Language Country Red Envelope
Mandarin China, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia hong bao
Cantonese Hong Kong lai see
Hokkien Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia ang pow (ang bao)
Korean Korea Sae Bae Don
Vietnamese Vietnam Lì Xì

 

The term Red Envelope is also commonly known as Red Packet or Red Pocket which are closely related to the hong bao or ang pow terms.

Different red envelope designs

Red envelopes are traditionally rectangular in shape and this is thought to have come from shields which represent protection. The size does vary from the typical small envelope which are sized to have folded bank notes and to fit into an envelope. Also common is the full sized envelope which can fit unfolded notes and is commonly used when giving larger amounts or during weddings as a gift.

Laura – “As a personal experience, I have only been celebrating Chinese new year for the past 4 years- this is the amount of time I have been working for Feng Shui Store and how long I have been in a relationship with Sean (Michael and Josephine’s Son) before this I had never received a red envelope. When I received my first red envelope, I thought it was such a lovely and kind gesture. I never expected to receive one. For children, Olivia (my daughter, who is 1 years old) received her first red envelope this year, obviously she still doesn’t understand the meaning of it but I can guarantee, when she is older she will immediately focus on the size and thickness of the envelope as it would give her an idea of how much she may receive. “

All red envelopes will have an image or Chinese character or both on the front to express a special occasion. I have shown below some meaning and what they symbolise.

Red envelope image Translation
Fish Fish always represent wealth and luck and when displayed on an envelope they will be abundance of everything every year.
The Three Immortals (Fuk Luk & Sau) Fuk, Luk and Sau. Fuk is the deity of wealth and prosperity, Luk symbolizes power and authority, and Sau symbolizes longevity.
Young boy and/or girl The children are conveying their joy and excitement in receiving them.
Phoenix and dragon Seen on wedding Red Envelopes. Represent Yin and Yang (feminine and masculine) and symbolise blissful relations between husband and wife.
Chinese Zodiac Animals 12 animals based upon 12 lunar year cycle..
Mandarin Citrus Fruit (looks like orange) In Cantonese, this fruit sounds like ‘gold’ so symbolizes wealth.
Chinese characters Translation
Double ‘He’ (囍) The double happiness symbol. Mainly used as wedding decoration to represent double happiness.
‘Fook’ (福) Good luck and fortunes
‘Gong He Fat Choi’ (恭喜發財) Congratulations and Prosperity. Generally means wishing you prosperity and good luck.
‘San Nian Fai Lok’ (新年快樂) Happy New Year
‘Ya Sui Chin’ (壓歲錢) Money warding off evil spirit

I have included two tasks below as a great creativity project for people of all ages and especially for children as it can teach them the cultures of surrounding countries. We encourage teachers to use these to teach their students about Chinese New Year. Please feel free to download the project template and use it in your classroom and it would be lovely to see some of your students work. You can download the printer friendly version by clicking this link. Michael and Jo’s niece Hannah Sacco printed this one below in black and white and then spent a few hours colouring it in.

This is an example of a handmade Ang Pow which started off as the template below and coloured by Michael and Jo’s then 12 year old niece Hannah.

ang pow colouring project 2017signature

When do you give Ang Pows?

The giving and receiving of red envelopes is centuries old and in modern times, it is more popular around the world than it has ever been! During Chinese New Year, Ang Pows are given by married couples to small children, teenagers and unmarried adults. This year, Chinese New Year falls on the 28 January 2017.

Ang Pows can be given at any time and do not just have to be given on a special occasion; Ang Pows can even be given to pay fees. Ang Pows are considered very auspicious and can be given at any time of the year; it is recommended that you use some of the money to try and pay some debt off if you have any. You should always leave a small even amount of money inside the red envelope and place it in your purse, handbag or wallet.

A small selection below of the red envelopes that we sell in our store; these really are a work of art and our quality is second to none; the quality is actually very important and the flimsier envelopes can sometimes indicate that they have been mass produced by a printing company with little knowledge of Ang Pows together with a pattern that actually has no meaning so please be sure to buy your Red Envelopes from a reputable store.

 

Ang Pow envelopes

Birthdays:

It is traditional and customary to give a red envelope to parents when their baby celebrates their first month of life although this is used more in eastern culture. The parents will, in return, distribute to well-wishers gifts like red dyed eggs (and nui), yellow rice (nasi kunyit) with curry chicken or bean cakes (ang ku). Money is usually given in an Ang Pow as a birthday gift for people of all age groups. The elderly also give gifts of money to their younger generation when they celebrate events like their 70th birthday for example.

Weddings:

Traditionally, at weddings, the amount you give in the red envelope is used to cover the cost of people who have attended the wedding as well as a gift for the newlyweds. In southern China, red envelopes are typically given to married couples by the unmarried person, most of whom would be children. In Northern China, red envelopes are typically given by elders to the younger generation who are typically under 25, regardless of marital status, while in some regions red envelopes are only given to the young people without jobs.

Traditionally, you should put brand new notes inside red envelopes and also to avoid opening the envelopes in front of the relatives out of courtesy.

Feng Shui:

Feng Shui enthusiasts believe that a red envelope containing a gold i-ching coin can bring good luck to the bearer of the envelope when it is placed in their purse, wallet, accounts books or handbag. Red envelopes can also be used as wish list holders; you write your dreams and aspirations on a piece of red paper and place it inside the envelope and this is said to encourage your dreams to take place. Some Feng Shui practitioners especially those that practise Tibetan black hat Feng Shui even insist on being paid with their cash fee inside a red envelope, this is not something that I adhere to though, although it is a lovely thought when I do receive it.

School activities:

We were contacted by a local primary school several years ago now by a group of teachers that wanted to give all their students an Ang Pow red envelope for Chinese new year and it is always great to hear that younger generations are becoming involved in different practices. We have many different schools that order large quantities of Ang Pows year after year which I think is lovely that they want to educate their student in other cultures.

I don’t want to make one; I just want to buy them already made:

Believe me; it came be a great activity to do with friends and family. When I first wrote this article, I spent about five hours writing this article and a further two hours were spent watching my cousin Hannah cutting out and colouring her red envelope which she kindly gave to me, it was lovely to see her enjoying herself and asking questions about them and I took great pride teaching her all about the red envelopes history and more. Actually I have to admit Jo in the early days of the Feng Shui Store used to run a bit of a “sweat shop”, Hannah used to help us out by placing the I-Ching Coin in the red envelopes and is one of our cherished team members and this time of the year is a very busy time for us with the Chinese New Year in a few weeks.

Whilst we encourage you to make your own but if you really want to buy them, you can follow this link

To make your own red envelope you will need:

I have copied two versions below, one you can print straight from your colour printer and the other you can colour in yourself or print onto red paper, this is a nice project to give to children and if you are a school teacher please feel free to print this out and use in your class, all we ask is you do not alter or change any of the text on there.

  • A sheet of white paper, red paper or paints/pens for black & white version.
  • Scissors
  • Pritt stick glue or paper glue.

You should click here first to download the printer friendly version otherwise you will be printing all our banners and wasting your valuable ink cartridge. Print this onto a sheet of white or red paper, Cut out the red envelope and fold it along the dotted lines as shown below.

Straighten the packet out as shown below, and turn it over so you are looking at the side with the image, as in the diagram below.

ang pow project instructions

Now fold over flap A and apply some glue along its right edge. Fold over flap B and press it firmly onto the glued edge of flap A. Apply a little glue to flap D and press it firmly onto flap B & A.

You now have your Chinese red envelope! Flap C is the top and this is where you should place the money in and then seal it after.

Chinese New Year 2017:

Chinese New Year (according to the lunar calendar) starts on the 28 January 2017 (year of the Yin Fire Rooster- Ding You)  and is celebrated by Chinese all over the world by people from all walks of life and all ethnicities. Chinese New Year denotes new beginnings and a fresh start in life. This is a time of celebration, reunion, forgiveness, sharing and thanksgiving and is seen as a time for people to start fresh and leave their mistakes and problems behind and start again. This is the date that you would celebrate the Chinese New Year with Ang Pows, fireworks etc and not the date you use to place your  in Feng Shui.

The Lunar Chinese New Year Day is very different from the Solar (Hsia) New Year Day (February 3th 2017). The Lunar Calendar plans the days of the month according to the cycle of the moon whereas the solar year is governed by the sun. Although the Chinese solar year starts on a different date from the western year, the theory whereby the year is calculated on how long it takes the earth to go round the sun is the same. The lunar cycle lasts approximately 29.5 days and in order that the start of the Lunar New Year is not too far removed from the Solar New Year, the Chinese insert an extra month, this being called an intercalary month, once every few years. This is why Chinese New Year Day falls on a different date in each of the two calendars.

Whilst the solar (Hsia) calendar starts the New Year at the beginning of Spring, which falls normally between the 3rd and 5th of February, the lunar (yueh) calendar marks the New Year on the second New moon after the winter solstice. In 2017, Lunar Chinese New Year also called the ‘Spring Festival’, falls on 28th January 2017 which is the New Year that is celebrated by all ethnic Chinese. The solar New Year (3rd February 2017) is not celebrated at all and only used for Feng Shui placement.

© Daniel Hanna, Feng Shui Store 2017

Are you really prepared for 2017?

2017 Chinese astrology and Feng Shui guide Feng Shui Software 2017 Cures and Enhancers
2017 Chinese Animal Predictions 2017 Flying Star Analysis

Visit the pages below for further details on 2017 Chinese New Year etc.

Chinese New Year 2017 ** Checklist for Chinese New Year 2017 ** How to make your own Ang Pow **Chinese Talismans for 2017 ** Chinese animal predictions for 2017 ** Flying star Xuan Kong 2017 ** Avoid the fury of the Grand Duke, three killing 2017 ** Chinese New Year world time converter 2017 ** 2017 Cures and enhancers kits ** How to take a compass reading ** How to determine your facing direction ** Feng Shui software ** Feng Shui resource ** 2017 Tong Shu Almanac Software ** Feng Shui Blog ** Chinese culture **

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9 thoughts on “The History of the Red Envelopes and How to Use them in the Year of the Rooster 2017. (Hong Bao, Lai See, Ang Pow, Sae Bae Don, Ang Bao)

  1. Thank you Feng Shui Web for my beautiful windchime and additional welcome and meaningful gifts received this morning.

    The talisman and red envelopes were a wonderful surprise and extremely appreciated, not to mention the blog above surrounding the history and meaning.

    Thank you!

    1. Hi Claire,
      Thank you so much for letting us know, it really means a lot to receive emails like yours.
      Thank you
      Kindest regards
      Daniel

  2. We plan to give red envelopes containing money for Christmas. We want to know what we should have on the letter inside the envelope. Any ideas what we should write? Thank you!

    1. Hi Amy,

      The best thing to write is positive wishes and loving messages to those your are giving the Ang Pows.

      Kind regards,
      Daniel

  3. I was informed that a red envelope would assist in the sale of my house. Your website is a good information source.
    Thank you

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