History & Culture

Red envelope | Significance in Taiwan

The tradition of giving red envelopes, also known as “hongbao” (η΄…εŒ…) in Chinese, is an important part of Chinese culture, and in Taiwan, it’s a beloved practice that is deeply ingrained in the society.

Red envelop with "Happy new year" written in Chinese and giving out a free bubble tea coupon

Origins

The origins of the red envelope tradition can be traced back to ancient China, where it was believed that the color red would ward off evil spirits and bring good luck. Red envelopes were traditionally filled with money and given to children during the Lunar New Year as a symbol of good luck and prosperity for the coming year.

Significance in Taiwan

In Taiwan, the tradition of giving red envelopes has evolved to include not just children, but also adults. They are given as gifts during special occasions such as weddings, births, and even at the start of a new job or business venture. The practice is so prevalent that it has become a staple of Taiwanese culture, and it’s not uncommon to see red envelopes being exchanged during the Chinese New Year and other special occasions.

Giving and receiving

When giving red envelopes, it’s important to follow certain etiquette. They are usually given in person, and the giver should always use both hands to present the envelope. The money inside the envelope should be new and crisp, and the amount should be an even number, as odd numbers are associated with funerals and death. When receiving a red envelope, it’s polite to thank the giver and to open the envelope discreetly, rather than in front of them.

Digital Hongbao

In recent years, digital red envelopes have become increasingly popular, especially with the rise of mobile payment apps. These digital hongbao can be sent and received through apps such as Line or Shopee, allowing people to send and receive money in a fast and convenient way.

The tradition of giving red envelopes is an important part of Taiwanese culture and is deeply ingrained in the society. It’s a beloved practice that brings people together and symbolizes good luck and prosperity. Whether it’s traditional red envelopes filled with cash or digital hongbao, the act of giving and receiving red envelopes is a meaningful and cherished tradition in Taiwan.

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