Red envelopes are a long-standing Chinese tradition. The envelopes, also called packets, are often associated with the Chinese new year. With more stores stocking them around that period. But they’re available all year round and can be gifted for any occasion usually on your wedding day.
What do red pockets contain?
These envelopes contain money and are normally gifted to children or young adults who don’t have their own source of income.
Alternatively, they’re gifted at weddings, funerals, and when a child is born. Along with any other celebration that may require a gift.
Red symbolizes luck so the envelopes are exclusively red with gold lettering or images. These can be personalized with names, initials, or zodiac signs. Some are also available with cartoons on such as Hello Kitty or Doraemon.
How much money should you give?
The amount of money is also very important. Avoid gifting an amount with a 4 in, such as 44, 40, or 14. This is because the word four in Chinese sounds the same as the word for death. This makes it unlucky for any occasion that isn’t a funeral.
Odd numbers are also considered to be only appropriate for funerals. Apart from the number 9 which sounds the same as the word ‘long’ making it perfect for a wedding gift. At a wedding banquet, the amount in the envelope is meant to cover roughly the cost of the meal as well as to signify goodwill to the newlyweds.
When gifted with a red envelope it’s common courtesy to avoid opening it in front of the person who gifted it. For the person who gave the envelope, it is normal to avoid using coins so that the amount is not immediately obvious. And the notes should be new notes rather than old, crinkled ones. This means that there are often long queues outside banks before new years. When everyone wants to take out brand new notes for their envelopes.
Different occasions call for different amounts of money. As previously mentioned, the amount expected as a wedding gift should cover the cost of your meal. Typically this is somewhere around $100 – $300 depending on whether you came as a couple or an individual and where the wedding was located. The bride and groom will be aware that not every guest can afford this amount. It’s a gesture of goodwill, not proof that you can afford a meal. Plus they won’t know which envelope is from who.
For the Chinese new year, the standard is $10. If you gift this to your parents it’s seen as a sign of respect. Putting more into the envelope, around $50 – $100 will more than likely mean you get one in return.
The amount should be tailored to your receiver
When giving the envelope as a gift for any other occasion the amount of money depends on many things. First and foremost is the recipient. It’s customary to give these envelopes to even very small children. Of course, a small child and a teenage one will not need the same amount of cash. Similarly, someone with a high income or someone comfortably retired will not require money in the same way that someone unemployed or struggling will. Tailor the amount in the packet to the person you’re gifting it to. The envelope is about respect and tradition.
The second thing to consider is the occasion. For simple holidays everyone will be giving out envelopes and the amount of money inside will be smaller token amounts. Just to show appreciation and to give good luck. Something such as a graduation, where it is one or two individuals in the family that will be receiving money then it is expected that the amount will be more. Not only because it’s only one person you’ll be gifting to. But also as a well done for their achievement. Again, give only what you can afford.
Where to buy red pockets in Hong Kong?
So coming to the question of where to buy said red envelopes.
In the digital age, many resort to online purchases. But it’s just not the same as searching the shops for your packets. Around new years, more and more shops will sell some red envelopes. Usually, rather basic and simple designs. Often with Chinese characters on. For the rest of the year, they are available in all sorts of places. Hong Kong is no exception to that. Small newspaper stands often have their own little display. As well as stationery stores being full of them. Stores with specific themes may also have red envelopes with their own characters on them. Such as Sanrio stores.
Local stores in Hong Kong
Hong Kong has plenty of stationery stores. One of the best is the Silver Stationery Store. This little nook is traditional and quaint. Full of old items you’d never imagine seeing again. There’s also a lot of quirky and interesting items. Perfect for someone looking for traditional and authentic red envelopes.
Kikki K is another great mention. Almost on the complete other side of the stationary spectrum to Silver. This modern store is filled to the brim with pastel colors and dainty items. Ideal if you’re looking for something completely adorable.
Another perfect place for red envelopes is the Sanrio Gift Gate. This store sells items covered in their most popular characters. Hello Kitty is, of course, top of the list. Other names include Gudetama, Rilakkuma, and Keroppi. Find adorable red envelopes with all your favorite characters embossed in gold on the front. Perfect for any lover of these cutesy cartoons.
Manis is another store, licensed by Sanrio, that sells products with Sanrio characters on. These are dotted around everywhere in Hong Kong so finding one won’t be tricky.
Anything else you need to know about?
That’s all you need to know about where to find red envelopes in Hong Kong. As well as when to use them and how much to put in them. Not only is this information useful for any natives of Hong Kong or China. But if you’re traveling to Hong Kong from afar then these little envelopes make perfect souvenirs to gift to any friends and family back home. You never know they may even become a tradition within your family regardless of your heritage.