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Hongbao as Chinese Culture

WOL – Every year, hundreds of millions around the world celebrate Lunar New Year, sometimes travelling thousands of miles to spend time with their family and friends. In China, this mass migration can cause huge problems – almost 100,000 people were stranded at a train station in southern China this week by heavy snow, for instance.

But Lunar New Year could potentially pose a different kind of issue for employers wishing to partake in the celebrations. It’s customary to give “hongbao” — red packets filled with cash — to family, friends, business partners and employees at this time of year, but first you need to know the rules.

It’s unwise to give money in odd-number amounts, for starters. That’s only done at funerals and considered unlucky for a time of celebration. So stick with even numbers, which are said to offer extra auspicious blessings. Just avoid the number four — the mandarin word for four (si) sounds a lot like the word for death and is also unlucky.

Hongbao literally translates as “red packet”. The colour red is considered lucky in Chinese culture. In recent times other hues such as pink and magenta have become popular so it’s not a hard-and-fast rule – just be sure to avoid white or black, as they are associated with death and mourning.

Take note: it’s considered rude and disrespectful to gift old notes. Best practice is to get brand-new ones from the bank. New notes are so popular that it can be hard for banks to keep up — for example, Singapore’s Monetary Authority prints 100 million extra $2 banknotes every holiday season to satisfy demand, and the authority has been running a “good as new” campaign since 2013 to take the pressure off.(bbc/data2)

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