Author: Bri Rodriguez-Cancio
This is Part III of a 4-part series on Chinese New Year to share special family memories of a good friend, who is from Shanghai, China. Please be sure to read the Introduction, Part I: Chinese New Year's Eve, and Part II: Chinese New Year & Family Time.
New Clothes for Children
Children receive new clothes to wear on Day 1 of the 15-day Chinese New Year Celebration. I do not envy the shopping frenzy, if it is anything like that in the U.S.!
The Red Envelope!
As you may know, the color red is a harbinger of good luck. The "Hong Bao" or "Red Envelope" containing money is given to children during Chinese New Year.
Who: Now, you may be thinking alongside me, "until what age do I have to subsidize my child/children's unchecked spending?" My source explained that there is no hard and fast rule. The upper limit for children to receive such presents can be high school, or depending on the family, until the child is married!
Variation: Companies in China, even American ones, quickly learn that Employers or Department heads are also expected to give "Hong Bao" to their employees.
Why: I also wondered why money was given, instead of gifts. I was told that money was traditionally viewed as a way for children to "get out of trouble" or "overcome difficulties" with their newly-received coins and bills.
How Much : this all depends on many factors, such as the family finances, the age of the child, the closeness between the relatives, and the occasion. Children can buy what they wish, or they may independently choose to save it to pay for a larger expense, such as school tuition.
Fireworks to Bring Wealth
On Day 5 of the 15-day Chinese New Year Celebration, people light firecrackers because they believe that the sound will bring the God of Wealth [Cai Shen] to their homes. He apparently looks like a very distinguished scholar-warrior with a long beard... not at all like "Rich Uncle Pennybags" from the U.S. Monopoly game or "Daddy Warbucks" from the "Annie" comic strip and movies.
Certain traditions have to evolve, and this explosive one has as well. In the last several years, authorities have been concerned about the possible spread of fire, not to mention bodily harm. Consequently, the firecrackers have been relegated to the outlying areas of the city, where there is more space for this mischief...er, fun. The same rule applies to fireworks. Luckily, the God of Wealth is apparently all--seeing, as he will find your home. So, some families will judiciously "divide" the fireworks display between Day 1 and Day 5 to "cover their bases" between beasts and budget, so to speak.