Ask the Yangxifu: Chinese New Year Red Envelopes For Boyfriend? | Speaking of China

16 Responses

  1. BRUCE
    BRUCE January 20, 2012 at 8:15 am | | Reply

    Lai see can be given to parents from married sons or daughters also. Take him to a Chinese New Yr dinner at a very traditional Chinese Restaurant. Don’t take him to a westernized Chinese Restaurant. They have those real Chinese dishes especially for Chinese New Yr only.

  2. ordinary malaysian
    ordinary malaysian January 20, 2012 at 9:20 am | | Reply

    @Jocelyn, I don’t quite agree. Nowadays, everyone is happy to receive a red packet or ang pao. This goes for bf and gf. Just tell your beloved it is for good lucky.

  3. ordinary malaysian
    ordinary malaysian January 20, 2012 at 9:44 am | | Reply

    @Jocelyn, BTW here’s wishing you and John and everyone else 龙年快乐,万事如意

  4. Chris Waugh
    Chris Waugh January 20, 2012 at 4:21 pm | | Reply

    I’m with Jocelyn on this. I’ve only ever seen hongbao go to children. Grandparents to grandchildren, uncles/aunts to nephews and nieces.

    But as with all things, China’s huge and there are numerous regional differences. It’s probably best to ask the boyfriend to explain laisee and then decide.


  5. Sveta
    Sveta January 20, 2012 at 7:26 pm | | Reply

    Happy Spring Festival everyone (Is it spring festival or New Years? ANd how do you say it the right way?) Wish I could give some advice but I can’t.

  6. a
    a January 21, 2012 at 7:02 pm | | Reply

    happy chinese new year. May this dragon year bring us all prosperity and joy.

  7. Victor Ng
    Victor Ng January 21, 2012 at 7:15 pm | | Reply

    Happy Chinese New Year Jocelyn and John!

    As a general rules in Hong Kong, if you are going to a gathering in the CNY, and you expect some people to bring gift to you, it’s a good idea to have some lai see in return.
    Apart from that, I would give lai see to children, not adults.

    The truth is, if you are a foreigner and you are not married yet, you would most likely b excused from this whole expectation anyway. And it also demands on how traditional the family is.

  8. Susan Blumberg-Kason
    Susan Blumberg-Kason January 21, 2012 at 9:31 pm | | Reply

    I agree about not giving laisee to a boyfriend, no matter how young or how old he is. Last week I was at a Chinese New Year banquet and there was more laisee than kids and students, so the eldest in our group presented the rest to each of the adults, no matter our age. And it was the eldest man, not his wife! Women may hold up half the sky, but not when it comes to laisee, I guess.

  9. ordinary malaysian
    ordinary malaysian January 21, 2012 at 11:58 pm | | Reply

    I am not sure about the situation in mainland China. But in Malaysia, nobody cares if a gf gives her bf an ang pao. There is no pantang (Malay for taboo) about this. And I do give adults older than me ang paos and nodody has objected or has felt insulted or pantanged. Everyone is happy. I used to and still do give my gf ang paos too, and she to me and we are all happy and feel blessed. It is all in good fun and for good luck.

    @Sveta, Chinese new year is actually spring festival 春节 cunjie. Cun 春 is spring and jie 节 is festival. 

  10. Friend
    Friend January 22, 2012 at 2:06 am | | Reply


  11. Friend
    Friend January 22, 2012 at 2:19 am | | Reply

    Some advice.

    Our Cantonese traditions are slightly to moderately different from the rest of China.
    I guess we have to know how traditional he is (because born and raised overseas doesn’t always mean 100% Westernized or assimilated to the locals. It depending on where the guy lives, how close he is to family, how much he cares about these customs, etc.).

    There are certain rules about clothing though among Cantonese people. I don’t think it might be a good idea. For sure, I know don’t give any gifts of pants, shoes or hats. Shirts I’m not sure, but I wouldn’t suggest it. There’s actually quite a lot of superstitions among Cantonese folks about many things. I mean, it depends on the guy you’re dating. Sometimes, he may say he doesn’t mind, but if he is very close to this stuff, it’s gonna be in his mind to be aware of it.

    The safest, most sentimental and happiest thing is food. Red pockets are totally reserve it for family, (married members only) but a meal or food items are the best ideas IMHO. Get some sweets, from fruits to cakes or candies. There are a lot of food stores nowadays, both Chinese and non-Chinese, that are catering to this specific holiday. You could probably get something from there.

  12. Friend
    Friend January 22, 2012 at 2:25 am | | Reply

    Also, depending on how far you are on that relationship, I might suggest a red string.
    Again, depends on the guy. He may not get it, or gets it but thinks its too weird, or gets it and won’t admit anything but will feel something, or totally gets it and not be ashamed of expressing himself.

    But like, usually the first day (traditional celebration is almost a week long) is often reserved for special family time, so it might be awkward for anything “too” romantic, but the days afterwards should be ok, I think.

  13. Friend
    Friend January 22, 2012 at 4:06 am | | Reply

    Regarding the red pockets, in general it’s suppose to be given from people with higher status than you.
    So like, elders, older family members who at least above you one generation (married or not, this is ok for those cases), Married relatives of your same generation, your boss, manager, superior, sometimes older married co-worker or really older person (married or not), your teacher (or master in some skills or arts), etc.

    Basically, it denotes a type of hierarchy. So , it may be awkward to give it to your boyfriend. The Malaysian example is a rare exception (I haven’t heard of this from other Chinese communities, in China and outside).

  14. Eileen
    Eileen January 22, 2012 at 7:00 pm | | Reply

    Thank you for spending your time with this blog – I’ve learned quite a lot. 新年快樂!萬事如意! 🙂

  15. Katamari Damacy
    Katamari Damacy February 12, 2012 at 4:51 pm | | Reply

    Only married couples give red packets…so seeing as you are not yet married, you should be exempt from this part of the CNY festivity. In fact, your bf’s parents might even take the gesture offensively, as if you have already included yourself in the family. Along the same line, giving gifts could potentially be seen as offensive – some of the items listed above are given as part of a ‘wedding dowry exchange’ event that occurs before a wedding. So they might also see it as though you have taken the liberty to put yourself in their family. Hope you don’t take this too personally!! Its just that I am married into a very “Siu hay” family (short tempered? Not sure what the English translation would be) that is somewhat traditional and am now used to double checking in my brain to see if there is any way they can twist things to be taken offensively!! Ugh, in-laws…

  16. Goat of the Year
    Goat of the Year February 20, 2015 at 5:13 am | | Reply

    Hong bao are usually given by married couples to children (sometimes single adults), or from bosses to their employees. The reason is that hong bao represent luck and fortune being passed along to those who have less. A boyfriend giving his girlfriend a hong bao, and vice-versa, is considered inappropriate. Giving a gift of red clothing may be appropriate, but it depends on the person’s background. To play it safe, give tangerines, particularly healthy ones with the stems and leaves still attached. These anyone can give, especially children to their elders.

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