During CNY, people give out lucky money in little red packets, aka lai see (Cantonese), ang pao (Hokkien) or hong bao (Mandarin) to parents, friends, relatives, and even co-workers. These red envelopes symbolize good luck, and by giving them out, you send out blessings and wish people happiness. Read on to learn about the traditional rules you need to follow.

Who should give red packets?

Only married people are expected to give out red packets to people who are single and younger than them. However, it's always an excellent opportunity to show your gratitude to people around whether you are married or unmarried.

When to give?

People give out red packets during the first 15 days of CNY.

Who and how much to give?
From the security guards at your place, cleaners, to your colleagues, give out red packets to anyone who you'd like to thank. It's also a good idea to include your helper in the festivity. You can think of splitting a yearly bonus throughout the year over CNY, Christmas, and birthday.

It's always quite tricky to determine how much you'd like to put in the red envelopes. Give HK$20-50 to any services you usually use, and HK$50-500 to your relatives, colleagues, and friends. 

Is it okay to use old red envelopes from last year?

It depends on the design of the envelopes, but most of them are reusable.  

What to say?

The most common ones are "Gong Hey Fat Choy" for a prosperous year ahead, or "Sun Nin Fai Lock," for happy new year.

What else?

  • As red packets are usually given from the senior to the junior, some might find it rude if you let your kids hand them to older people. Also, give red packets with both hands to show your respect. 
  • No matter who it is, never give out coins or crumpled banknotes. A lot of people would try to get brand new crisp notes before CNY, so call ahead if you don't want to spend time lining up at the bank.
  • Teachers usually are not allowed to accept lai see from parents. 
  • One important note: do not give increments of 4 in lai see, ang pao, or hong bao, because of the pronunciation of 4 sounds similar to death in Chinese.