9 Golden Rules of Hong Bao

9 Golden Rules of Hong Bao

This Chinese New Year, we will be expecting the giving out and receiving of many red envelopes (also known as hong bao).

Just in case you don’t know, red envelopes are also called as;

 *hong bao – Mandarin
 * lai see – in Cantonese (usually used in Hong Kong)
 *ang pao - Hokkien

Giving out hong baos for the first time during Chinese New Year can be a very daunting experience.
But before you getting excited about these important cultures, I’m sharing the

9 Golden rules of hong bao.

*ehhh why 9? Because this 2018, number 9 is an auspicious number!

1. Hong bao or little red envelopes with cash are handed out during the first fifteen (15) days of the Lunar New Year, so from Friday, February 16 of this year.

9 Golden Rules of Hong Bao

2. Hong baos are handed out from parent to child, boss to staff and to those who provide a service for us, including building concierge, cleaners, hairdressers, waiters, baristas, your personal stylist and assistant, and of course don’t forget our house helpers, and drivers. Don’t let children hand hong bao to older people, as this is considered RUDE.

3. It’s worth keeping a few envelopes to hand for the Chinese New Year period containing varying denominations. Hong baos should be offered the first time that you see a person during the Chinese New Year period.

9 Golden Rules of Hong Bao

4. In ancient China, red strings of 100 copper coins were given, symbolizing longevity. The idea is similar to the Western tradition of offering a bonus or tip in the lead-up to Christmas.

5. Each envelope should contain just one, crisp, ideally unused banknote. The hong bao packets should also be new. When giving or receiving hong bao, use both hands as a demonstration of respect and wish the person a hearty “Kung Hei Fat Choi!”

6. Worried about how much to offer? Recommended amounts include Php100 (approx. US$2) for building or service staff (concierge, waiters, guards, etc.), Php200 to Php800 (approx. US$3 to US$15) for your regular hairstylist and manicurist or masseuse, up to Php2000 (approx. US$38) for your house help, and your pooches Yaya, and up to Php6000 (approx. US$115) for work staff if you’re the boss, depending on role and seniority. If you’re going to a Chinese New Year gathering, take packets containing a Php100 note to hand out to any children.

Of course, there is no fixed minimum amount for each level of the recipient as it should be dependent on your financial situation and how much you feel you can afford. Rich folk is possibly giving out hong baos with hundreds or thousands of pesos but we’ll focus on us regular Filipinos here.

The above approximations we gathered from speaking with seasoned seniors with some years of hong bao giving under their belts, and in accordance with work seniority, and the like.
Something to note is that peers do not usually give hong baos to each other, or rather it is less expected. So, if you meet an old classmate at a CNY gathering, it would not be weird if you did not give one to this person.

7. Traditionally, the married member of the family would not receive hong baos anymore and become the giver of them.

8. Never open your received hong bao in public (worst is during the presence of the giver), as it is deeming rude.

9 Golden Rules of Hong Bao

9. Hong bao packets can be found all over town, including from stationery shops, banks (some banks are happy to send you free hong bao packets especially for valued customers!), and supermarkets. Often they are given away free – these are fine to use, as well.

Recently, many companies and brands are creating unique hong bao designs, so you might check out these stores. Worst, you have to hurry up buying it from the nearest supermarket with those generic designs.

TIP: When you see someone you expect to give a red envelope, say “Gongxi facai, hongbao na lai” only to someone you know. Never to random strangers or business colleagues to avoid misunderstanding.

9 Golden Rules of Hong Bao

How much do you give during the Chinese New Year? Share your hong bao tips with us.

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  1. LOL Old as I am, I am still receiving hong baos, and happily so! I only give "hong baos" to my parents, uncles and aunts, but don't keep them in the red packet.

    1. Hahaha you are so funny. Then where did you keep them?


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