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Origin[]

Traditionally, Red envelopes or red packets are passed out during the Chinese New Year's celebrations, from married couples or the elderly to unmarried juniors. It is also common for adults or young couples to give red packets to children. Red packets are also known as 壓歲錢/压岁钱 during this period. Red packets almost always contain money, usually varying from a couple of dollars to several hundred. Per custom, the amount of money in the red packets should be of even numbers, as odd numbers are associated with cash given during funerals (帛金: báijīn). The number 8 is considered lucky (for its homophone for "wealth"), and $8 is commonly found in the red envelopes in the US. The number six (六, liù) is also very lucky as it sounds like 'smooth' (流, liú), in the sense of having a smooth year. Sometimes chocolate coins are found in the red packets. Odd and even numbers are determined by the first digit, rather than the last. Thirty and fifty, for example, are odd numbers, and are thus appropriate as funeral cash gifts. However, it is common and quite acceptable to have cash gifts in a red packet using a single bank note – with ten or fifty yuan bills used frequently. It is customary for the bills to be brand new printed money. Everything regarding the New Year has to be new in order to have good luck and fortune. The act of requesting for red packets is normally called (Mandarin): 讨紅包 tǎo-hóngbāo, 要利是. (Cantonese): 逗利是. A married person would not turn down such a request as it would mean that he or she would be "out of luck" in the new year. Red packets are generally given by established married couples to the younger non-married children of the family. It is custom and polite for children to wish elders a happy new year and a year of happiness, health and good fortune before accepting the red envelope. Red envelopes are then kept under the pillow and slept on for seven days after Chinese New Year before opening because it symbolizes good luck and fortune when you sleep on the red envelopes for seven nights. In Taiwan in 2000s, sometimes some employers also give red packets as a bonus to maids, nurses or domestic workers from Southeast Asian countries, though whether this is appropriate is controversial. The Japanese have a similar tradition of giving money during the New Year called Otoshidama.

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