Small envelopes with a big meaning.

By: Donna M Navedo Sexton
Manager-Corporate Communications

Learn more about the significance of hongbao and the Lunar New Year.

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Small envelopes with a big meaning

Did you know that nearly 2 billion people across the world celebrate the Lunar New Year?

The New Year is an occasion for multiple generations of families to gather in celebration. People enjoy fireworks, wear special clothes, exchange gifts, and hang red lanterns to mark the occasion. It is believed that the Lunar New Year celebration ensures good fortune in the year ahead.

The red envelopes

Traditionally given by elders to younger family members, hongbao — meaning red bag —represents the sharing of wishes for good luck, good fortune and to ward off evil spirits. Dating back to the 10th century, the origin of hongbao connects to a story of an evil spirit named Sui, who came out on New Year’s Eve to scare children while they slept.

One New Year’s Eve, a family decided the best way to protect their child from Sui was to keep him awake, so they gave him eight coins wrapped in red paper and let him play. The child unwrapped and rewrapped the coins several times until he was too tired to continue, and fell asleep. The parents placed the packet with eight coins under his pillow and when Sui tried to touch the boy’s head, the eight coins emitted a strong light and scared the demon away. It is said that the eight coins turned out to be fairies that kept the child safe and brought him good luck.

Since then, this tradition of giving red coin-filled envelopes to children on Lunar New Year has evolved into a symbol of positive energy, happiness and good luck in much of Asian culture.

Other times to give a red envelope

Red envelopes are most commonly associated with the Lunar New Year, but that’s not the only place they turn up. It is culturally acceptable to give a red envelope at a wedding, the birth of a child, from elder to child, or as an anniversary gift. In business, a boss might give hongbao to an employee, at the opening of a new business or other occasion involving a significant festivity.

Year of the Tiger

2022 is the year of the tiger. In the zodiac, the tiger represents independence, strength, and confidence. People born in 2022, 2010, 1998, 1986, 1974, 1962, 1950 and 1938 are ambitious, brave and determined tigers in the face of adversity. This year also introduces the element of water, known to be calm, quiet and reserved. These elements together will symbolize open-mindedness, strong interpersonal relationships, achievement and determination.

Our PACE ERG has a variety of events you can participate in to celebrate this New Year. We encourage you to participate and learn more. No matter how you say it…Gong hei fat choy (恭喜发财), Xīnnián kuàilè (新年快乐), Xīnnián hǎo (新年好)... Wishing you happiness and prosperity. So, What’s your sign? Is the year of the Tiger your year? Tell us in the comments below.

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About the author:

Donna is part of the Corporate Employee Communications team, focused on our socially responsible business practices through Citizen Verizon's Diversity, Equity & Inclusion initiatives and the Women's CoLab.

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