It is a Chinese custom to give hong pao (Mandarin) or ang pow (Hokkien) or Lai See (Cantonese) to the younger generation during Chinese New Year. A hong pao is simply a red packet with some money in it. The red color symbolizes good luck and is supposed to ward off evil spirits. The packet is often decorated with the Chinese zodiac animal symbol according to what year it is. For instance this year is the Year of the Tiger and there are lots of red packets with the picture or symbol of the tiger printed on them.
The amount of money that a red packet contains is dependent on several factors such as the relationship between the giver and the recipient, the social standing of the giver and the recipient, etc.
The amount of money is almost always an even number and amounts that end with 8 are very popular as 8 sounds like prosperity in Mandarin. However an amount that is usually avoided despite ending with 8 is 38 as “3” and “8” when used together refers to an unpleasant woman.Amounts that are usually avoided are those that end in 4 or involve 4 as 4 in Mandarin sounds like death.
Collecting red packets has become a very popular hobby among a lot of Chinese. Some red packets, like stamps, can command good prices so it can become a lucrative hobby.
My wife is a collector of red packets. This year she has managed to collect a few red packets with the symbols of the tiger printed on them. And I have asked some of my friends in neighboring countries to reserve some of the red packets from their countries for my wife. My wife is looking forward to receive these red packets to add to her collection. To my friends who have so kindly reserved the red packets for my wife, I wish to express my heartfelt thanks! May the Year of the Tiger be a ROARING GOOD YEAR for you!