Gifting 'Hongbaos': To Give Money Individually or by Household?

February 13, 2017
By Nanjing Evening PostEditor: Rong Chen
Gifting 'Hongbaos': To Give Money Individually or by Household?
Two children are happy to show off their received 'red packets'. [baobao.sohu.com]

 

During the annual Spring Festival holiday, many Chinese families debate over the proper etiquette in handing out hongbaos, or so-called "red packets" containing money. What is the appropriate approach to splitting such gifts – by individuals or household?

Since many families have recently welcomed newborn babies, many find it hard to figure out the best way to preserve the long-standing ritual.

The packets, given by the elderly or relatives to younger generations, are a tradition to show good luck and symbolize their great expectations towards youngsters.

The following two examples illustrate the complex situation, as some parents supplement the money that their children receive, and others complain that they do not get enough.

A woman surnamed Hu is a mother of two. Each of her young children received a red packet with 2,000 yuan (U.S.$ 290) inside from their grandma. However, the elderly relative gave another 4,000 yuan (U.S.$ 580) to the only child from the family of Hu's brother-in-law.

For the grandma, she gave out equivalent amount to each household; for Hu, she believed it is hard to explain to her children why they receive less money than their relative.

On the other hand, another woman named Ann chose to double the money that her children received from senders with two offspring, out of her own pocket. "I don't want any child to feel bad at holiday just because of such shrinking gift money," Ann said.

According to a psychological expert Wen Qing, she believes it is inappropriate to use red packets as a way for parents to compete economically with each other.

"Instead of blaming the folklore custom of handing out red packets itself, it is people's values or attitudes towards money that we should be concerned about," the expert said.

Moreover, another commentator said that in the past, Spring Festival was supposed to be a rare opportunity for youngsters to receive gifts, for example, delicious candies or new clothes, which they could not otherwise enjoy.

Nowadays, however, people are able to afford whatever materials and goods they want throughout the year, so red packets have become a particularly child-specific gift to send during the festival, with more symbolic rather than material value.

"How can we be so hardheaded to spoil children's only pleasure at the holiday?" added the commentator.

(Source: Nanjing Evening Post/Translated and edited by Women of China)

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