Chinese New Year is just around the corner and that means it’s time to get your red packets, or “Lai See” ready! For many Hong Kongers, this will be the first time we haven’t been able to travel during the biggest holiday of the year, giving us plenty of opportunities to give Lai See to everyone we see on a regular basis.
Together with MS. Money Mindset, we’ve composed a quick “how to” guide to help you understand all the do’s and don’ts around Lai See giving.
WELL, let’s start with the simple part…
Step 1. Give out red packets (Lai See)
Step 2. Make sure the red packets have money inside.
Step 3. Give them to all regular service staff.
Now let’s dive a bit deeper into giving Lai See, with a Chinese New Year overview to explain why we’re suddenly expected to hand money out to people.
(And how to get your cash before the bank runs out of $20- notes! It happens!)
Chinese New Year is a community-bonding affair, sweeping out the old and welcoming new opportunities, prosperity and good health.
It’s a time for people to strengthen relationships with family and community through gatherings, food, gifts, fireworks and well wishes – including lucky little red packets to welcome and wish good fortune for the year.
Giving red packets is a physical gesture of the good luck, wealth and health that will return to both giver and receiver in the new year ahead.
The date fluctuates based on the Lunar Calendar, usually falling around January – February.
Celebrations last around 16 days; from Chinese New Year’s Eve to the fifteenth day of the new year. This year we will be celebrating from February 11th-26th.
So, who needs to give Lai See? And how much?
Married people give Lai See. As do bosses to their entire team.
But it’s also given by unmarried folks to show appreciation for services.
To our security guard, manicurist, driver or other helpful people in our lives.
If we’re single but uncomfortable giving Lai See, a gift of something sweet and gold is auspicious, hence the popularity of Ferrero Rocher and other gold candy during this time.
LET’S GET LAI SEE
Step 1. Be prepared! Get new $20- notes from the bank ASAP in January.
(Warning – if you leave it to the week before CNY, the banks may be out of $20 notes. Sometimes I get them in December before Christmas travels!)
Avoid old notes, no coins and no denominations of unlucky 4’s. Fabulous new notes for a fabulous new year.
Step 2. Prepare packets with 20’s, 50’s and 100’s as needed. Ensure it’s easy for you to see what’s what!
Step 3. Carry the red packets constantly from the eve of CNY to the last day of CNY. Give immediately upon seeing someone, with both hands and one time only.
AMOUNTS- Here’s a useful ballpark Lai See guide (in Hong Kong dollars):
- Building staff : $20 – $50 per person, (more each if there’s less staff).
- Helper / driver : $100 (for part-time helpers $500)
- Boss to staff : $50 – $500
- Colleagues and friends : $20 – $100 (only familiar faces!)
- Service staff : $20 – $50
- Regular service staff (hairdresser, manicurist, therapist, etc) : $50 – $100
- Children of close friends, or someone who helped you a lot this past year : $500
GOODWILL AND RESPECT
A gentle warning from experience; I have seen and read about the following behaviour, which any self respecting person will avoid (and report to management if experienced!):
– Building staff bringing family members or friends to ask for Lai See from residents.
– People bringing their kids to work to ask everyone for Lai See.
Bonus! Lai see for weddings guidelines:
Guest’s Lai See helps recoup costs for the entire event, and shows goodwill to the newlyweds.
Average ballpark of HKD$800-1200 is polite to give (or $500-900 sent if you can’t attend in person).
Lai See Checklist
- Put HK$20 and HK$50 notes into red packets.
- Give with two hands and never open in front of others.
- We give Lai See if:
- Not married
- Boss of a team
- See service staff regularly
- Don’t want to be a social outcast
We hope this simple guide to Lai See giving helps you feel confident and comfortable when you’re out and about this Chinese New Year!
Do you have any additional tips that we should add in? We’d love to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org
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