The distribution of red envelopes, lai see, is common during the celebration of Chinese New Year. Red is considered a lucky color by Chinese culture and is often found in their holiday decorations and bridal gowns. In Chinese culture, it is a custom for older relatives, like grandmothers and aunts, to give a child a red envelope with money inside during Chinese New Year. It is also customary for married couples to give single people the same. It is believed that the red envelope has positive energy to protect people from evil, and that it will bring luck to people who give it and receive it. Since Chinese children usually do not receive regular allowances, giving them money during these special occasions is important to them.

How to Make a Red Envelope

Materials:

  1. Using the template below, trace it onto the red paper and cut it out.
  2. Fold 1 across to meet 2. Fold 2 across to meet 1.
  3. Tape sections 1 and 2 together with a small piece of transparent tape.
  4. Fold section 3 up to meet sections 1 and 2.
  5. Glue section 3 onto the taped sections 1 and 2.
  6. Fold flap 4 down last and tuck it inside the envelope. This is the flap of the envelope.
  7. Decorate the front of the envelope with a graphic and the words, "Gung Ho Fat Choy" meaning "Happy New Year".
                         
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Red envelopes are the traditional packaging for any gift of money in Chinese culture. More specifically, a red envelope is the proper way to give money to someone who would not usually be the recipient of payment, such as a gongfu shifu, a child, or a bride. Therefore it is also a casual way to say "bribe", a business practice common in Hong Kong and mainland China. redenvelope.com is a website that sells (expensive) gift items.

Most OCR machines in post offices cannot read images on red or green envelopes. This is due to contrast limitations with the machines themselves, causing difficulty for them to scan bar codes, or present an image to a postal worker keying in delivery information. This slows down the automoded process of mail delivery.

For people not interested in the speedy delivery of their mail, and more interested in the continued employment of postal workers, this is a good thing.

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