22.01.2020 in Exploratory

A Red Envelope as a Gift from My Childhood

A red envelope is a symbol of the Chinese New Year. As a rule, people in China celebrate this holiday for three to four weeks. During the celebration, elders in family or neighbors give young people a red envelope with money in it. Such a gift has been a long-term tradition in Chinese history. The red envelope received has to be put beneath the pillow representing good luck for the next year. On the other hand, this money is extra costs for youth to buy new clothes, new toys, or anything they want to. Therefore, the Chinese New Year is the happiest time for young people because they get money for their personal needs.

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My earliest recollection of the red envelope tradition is my mother’s telling me not to spend the money I got. She asked me to give her all the red envelopes I received in the holiday time. She only allowed me to keep the one placed under my pillow, while all others my mother saved for me. I have neither questioned about the issue nor argued with her. This mother’s rule over the Chinese New Year gifts continued until my first year of high school. Afterwards, she allowed me to keep all the red envelopes and to manage the money I was presented by elders. At last, she explained the reason of the previous prohibition of spending the money from red envelops, and such a revelation had great influence on my further life, though I will discuss this issue further.


Red envelopes have different sizes and a top and bottom parts. They used to be only one size that is as big as a normal envelope. However, nowadays, they are has mini, small, large, and extra large. The early red envelope was made from rough paper and was dyed in red color. I remember one received from my grandparents and it look like a sand paper dyed with color of red. If one would hold the envelope with sweaty fingers, they would become red. Apart from that, red envelope used to be fragrant. The aroma was special since it is still undiscovered and is defined as the fragrant of a red envelope, which can be smelled on the traditional red envelope only. Additionally, the traditional red envelope is very simple as it is of white color from the inside and red color on the outside. There is no pattern or cartoon pattern on the surface. People used to write blessing words on it, such as “Happy New Year” or “Wish You Good Luck,” with a black ink pen on the top side of envelope. In the contemporary time, there are a variety of styles of red envelopes on market having cartoon patterns, some company’s logo on it, or with bling decoration on the surface. Today’s red envelope is more colorful than in the past, and fingers are not be dyed in red anymore.

As the Internet becomes more advanced and common, presenting a red envelope is no longer limited to a real one. Namely, one can easily receive it online. To illustrate, many social media have developed an option allowing people to send a red envelope in the Chinese New Year. This opportunity is definitely convenient to young people who study abroad since they still receive the red envelope even though they are not able to fly back home for celebrating the holiday with a family. At the same time, the World Wide Web changed the phenomenon of the Chinese New Year by enabling the whole family being together despite its members may not be present in person during celebrating. Moreover, the Internet has allowed making this idea a well-bought marketing strategy involving selling red envelopes. The demand for this service is no longer as large as in the past during the time of the Chinese New Year. The custom of keeping red envelope beneath the pillow for good luck is being forgotten. Nowadays, young people only expect to receive money from elders, without even the red envelope. The surprise and joy of opening the red envelope to see the money inside the pocket is gone. Although this understanding is sad, people are getting used to this change as well. In any case, for me, a red envelope is a tool to recall my childhood.

As I mentioned earlier, my mother taught me to keep the red envelopes and manage the money I received only when I was the high school student. I remember she called me to her room on the day of the Chinese New Year’s Eve. She looked at my eyes and, in a serious tone, emphasized that I was no longer a child. My mother told me that it is the time for me to learn how to manage my life on my own and be independent. She handed me a bankbook and I was astonished with her deed and sincere care. My mother deposited all the money I received in the past Chinese New Year’s holidays and that time became a starting point she never kept my red envelopes. Since then, I realized that my childhood has gone, but with this red-envelop deposit I felt a great thankfulness and responsibility of being diligent and righteous in my further life. I got my first part-time job when I was eighteen. At that year, it was also my first time to give my parents a red envelope gift as a New Year present. I saw the proud for me in their eyes. While receiving a red envelope is more a good remembrance than a need for me, my parents are excited about getting one for the Chinese New Year, and I happily bring them joy in this way.

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