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Date [ 2015-02-10, 06:57 ]

Chinese New Year will not be complete without these coloured packets.


(Kuala Lumpur=Korean Press)  Lui Lai Keen = The Year of the Goat is just two weeks away. Already banks in Mlalaysia will be dispensing bundles of red packets or ‘ang pows’ to their customers. Some of them will also demand crisp new ringgits, basically one ringgit notes, that they will withdraw and place in the packets.

During the Chinese New Year, red envelopes are typically given by married couples to the unmarried, most of whom are children. The amount of money is usually notes to avoid heavy coins and to make it difficult to judge the amount inside before opening. In Malaysia, usually two new one ringgit notes are placed in the envelope. 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.
Red envelopes are also used to deliver payment for favorable service to lion dance performers, religious practitioners, teachers and doctors.

In Chinese and other Asian societies, a red envelope or red packet is a monetary gift which is given during holidays or special occasions such as weddings, the birth of a baby or graduation. However it never fails to appear during Chinese New Year. In addition to China, similar customs exist in Japan, Korea and many other countries where a sizeable ethnic Chinese population is present.

 The red colour of the envelope symbolizes good luck and is supposed to ward off evil spirits. The act of requesting for red packets is normally called tao hongbao.
The amount of money contained in the envelope usually ends with an even digit, in accordance with Chinese beliefs; odd-numbered money gifts are traditionally associated with funerals. Still in some regions of China and in its Diaspora community, odd-numbers are favored for weddings because they are difficult to divide. There is also a widespread tradition that money should not be given in fours, or the number four should not appear in the amount, such as in 40, 400 and 444, as the pronunciation of the word "four" resembles that of the word "death" and thus signifies bad luck for many Chinese.
At weddings, the amount offered is usually intended to cover the cost of the attendees as well as signify goodwill to the newlyweds, with appropriate amounts of RM288 to signify a pair plus double joy and RM388 to denote a birth after the marriage and double joy.

This custom has come down from China from during the Qin Dynasty. The elderly would thread coins with a red string. The money was referred to as "money warding off evil spirits" (yasui qian) and was believed to protect the person of a younger generation from sickness and death. The yasui qian was replaced by red envelopes when printing presses became more common and is now found written using the homophone for suì that means "old age" instead of "evil spirits" thus it has now become, "money warding off old age." The red envelopes continue to be referred to by such names today.

Other similar traditions also exist in other countries in Asia. In Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar and Cambodia, the Chinese immigrants introduced the culture of red envelopes. The red envelopes are considered lucky money and are typically given to children.

In Korea and Japan, a monetary gift is given to children by their relatives during the new year period. In Japan, however, white envelopes are used instead or red, with the name of the receiver written on its obverse. A similar practice, Shūgi-bukuro, is observed for Japanese weddings, but the envelope is folded rather than sealed, and decorated with an elaborate bow.

In the Philippines, Chinese Filipinos exchange red envelopes during the Chinese New Year. For non-Chinese Filipinos, the red envelope is an easily recognisable symbol of the Lunar New Year. Some Filipinos have appropriated this custom for other occasions such as birthdays, and more specifically, in giving the aguinaldo (gift package) during Christmas.

Let us not forget, in Malaysia Raya is coming soon. What should be noted is that the Malay Muslims have adapted the Chinese custom of handing out monetary gifts in envelopes as part of their Hari Raya Aidilfitri celebrations. But instead of red packets, green envelopes are used as Islam always favours the colour green. Customarily, a family will have usually small amounts of money, called Duit Raya, in green envelopes ready for visitors, and may even send them out to friends and family members unable to visit them during Raya... This custom is also practiced among the Muslims in Brunei, Indonesia, and Singapore.

So this February 19 or even earlier, be prepared to hand out the red packets for it is the Chinese New Year ushering in the Year of the Goat.

abc@koreanpress.net


 
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