Red envelopes are gifts presented at social and family gatherings such Wedding or Chinese New Year.
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The amount of money contained in the envelope usually ends with an even digit, in accordance with chinese belief. At weddings, the amount offered is usually intended to cover the cost of the attendees as well as signify goodwill to the newlyweds.
During the Chinese New Year, mainly in Southern China, the wedding red envelopes are typically given by the married to the unmarried, most of whom are children. Students are typically rewarded handsomely. It is traditional to put brand new notes inside red envelopes and also to avoid opening the envelopes in front of the relatives out of courtesy.
In China, during the Qin Dynasty, it was believed to protect the person of younger generation from sickness and death, the elderly would thread coins with a red string. The money was referred to as “money warding off evil spirits”
There are several stories on how the red envelope became relevant in today’s context. One of the story came from a village where a demon was terrorizing the citizens at night, in particularly children as the victims. The belief was that the demon was touching the children’s head while they were asleep and it would cause the children to become deathly ill or may even result in death. As the incident continues to frighten the villagers, a worried couple decided to protect their new born child by praying to the god for protection. In return, their god sent eight fairies to protect the new born. The fairies disguised themselves as eight coins and were placed under the child’s pillow at night.
At night the demon supposedly approached to touch the child on the head when the eight coins began to shine so bright that it prohibited the demon to see. Frightened from what had just happened, the demon ran away in terror. After hearing this story, the villagers began spreading the word and gave out red envelopes filled with coins to be placed under their pillow at night. At first the red envelopes were only given to children during the Spring Festival, but as time progress they were given to anyone.
By giving these red envelopes it would bring good luck and prosperity to the one receiving it. It would also prevent any evil spirits from contacting them throughout the year until the next Spring Festival.
So next time when you give out a red packet to your relatives or loved ones, do remember the meaning behind it! =)
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Credits – Wikipedia
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