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A quick guide to Lai See (red envelopes)

What is it?

You may have heard many stories about the origin of red envelopes; the most widespread dates back to the Qin Dynasty when elderly people would thread coins with a red string. The money was referred to as “money to avoid old age” and was believed to protect the person from sickness and death.  It was eventually replaced by a red envelope with the arrival of the printing press.

Who should you give a red envelope to?

Lai See is given to children and unmarried adults during special occasions such as Chinese New Year.  The money symbolizes good luck and helps ward off evil spirits. It has now become common practice to also give employees lai see and to other service-oriented workers such as building caretakers and domestic helpers to name a few.


How much should you give?

Amounts do not have to be large and go from HK$ 20 to HK$ 300 per person. It is, however, tradition to give brand new banknotes, hence the queues at the banks closer to Chinese New Year.

Lai see should be given with both hands and accompanied by the saying “Kung Hei Fat Choy”. It means: “congratulation and be prosperous”.