The root of Lucky Money was from an ancient Chinese tale. Once upon a time, there was a family. The couple got married for decades and fortunately, a son was born. However, at that time, there was a devil which always came at the New Year Eve and loved to touch children’ head while sleeping, then they got sick or became silly. One day, there were some gods passing by the house of the old couple and knew that the devil would came to this family and harm their son that night. Therefore, to protect the child, the gods turned into some coins and let the mother grabbed them inside a piece of red paper putting right beside her child’s pillow. That night, the devil came; however, it was scared by the twinkle light from the coin and could not put its hands on the child or harmed him.
The above story was spread everywhere and since then, people started to put a little money into a red envelope and gave them to the kids. This activity became a habit and has been continued up until now.
Lucky Money in China
The amount of money contained in the envelope usually ends with an even digit, in accordance with Chinese beliefs; odd-numbered money gifts are traditionally associated with funerals. The exception being the number 9 as it pronunciation of nine (Chinese: 九) is homophonous to the word long (Chinese: 久) and is the largest digit. Still in some regions of China and in its diaspora community, odd numbers are favored for weddings because they are difficult to divide. There is also a widespread tradition that money should not be given in fours, or the number four should not appear in the amount, such as in 40, 400 and 444, as the pronunciation of the word four (Chinese: 四) is homophonous to the word death (Chinese: 死).
During the Chinese New Year, in Southern China, red envelopes are typically given by the married to the unmarried, most of whom are children. In northern and southern China, red envelopes are typically given by the elders to the younger under 25 (30 in most of the three northeastern provinces), regardless of marital status. The amount of money is usually notes to avoid heavy coins and to make it difficult to judge the amount inside before opening. It is traditional to put brand new notes inside red envelopes and also to avoid opening the envelopes in front of the relatives out of courtesy.
It is also given during the Chinese New Year in workplace from a person of authority (supervisors or owner of the business) out of his own fund to employees as a token of good fortune for the upcoming year.
Chinese now can even give "digital lucky money" through Wechat app.
Lucky Money in Vietnam
Time flies but lucky money in Vietnam have not been lost its meaning. However, it is now more than a small wish of luck for children. People give lucky money not only to kids but also to everyone still study and cannot earn money themselves, to older people like their parents and grandparents, even to anyone they respect.
In Vietnam, red envelopes are considered to be lucky money and are typically given to children. They are generally given by the elders and adults, where a greeting or offering health and longevity is exchanged by the younger generation. Common greetings include "Sống lâu trăm tuổi", "An khang thịnh vượng", which all relate back to the idea of wishing health and prosperity as age besets everyone in Vietnam on the Lunar New Year. The typical name for lucky money is “Lì Xì” or, less commonly, “Mừng Tuổi”.
In business, at present, there are more companies choose “Lì Xì” as a special and traditional thanks to their valued customers or workers. It is not only a wish for a lucky new year to their customers but also a way that these companies can help to conserve a precious ancient tradition.
Other similar traditions also exist in other countries in Asia. In Thailand, Myanmar (Burma) and Cambodia, the Chinese diaspora and immigrants have introduced the culture of red envelopes.
In Cambodia, red envelopes are called Ang Pav or Tae Ea ("give ang pav"). Ang pav are delivered with best wishes from elder to younger generations. Ang pav can be presented on the day of Chinese New Year or Saen Chen, when relatives gather together. The gift is kept as a worship item in or under the pillowcase, or somewhere else, especially near the bed of young while they are sleeping in New Year time. Gift in ang pav can be either money or a cheque, and more or less according to the charity of the donors.
In South Korea, a monetary gift is given to children by their relatives during the New Year period. However, white envelopes are used instead of red, with the name of the receiver written on the back.
In Japan, a monetary gift otoshidama (お年玉) is given to children by their relatives during the New Year period. White or decorated envelopes (otoshidama-bukuro (お年玉袋)) are used instead of red, with the name of the receiver written on either side. A similar practice, shūgi-bukuro, is observed for Japanese weddings, but the envelope is folded rather than sealed, and decorated with an elaborate bow.
In the Philippines, Chinese Filipinos exchange red envelopes (termed ang pao) during the Lunar New Year, which is an easily recognisable symbol. The red envelope has gained wider acceptance among non-Chinese Filipinos, who have appropriated the custom for other occasions such as birthdays, and in giving monetary aguinaldo during Christmas.