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The changing face of hongbao

The unstoppable growth in the value of hongbao


What was once a symbolic act to ward off sickness, old age and even death is rapidly becoming all about the money. Due to the ever-growing thousands of RMB being crammed into their small hands, the long held tradition of giving red envelopes to children during Spring Festival is putting a greater strain on many Chinese families. China Daily report that ” people stuff them with ridiculously large amounts of cash or use them as a networking tool”. The unstoppable growth of materialism in the younger generation means that previous traditions are being left behind, and the desire for money is becoming ever greater.

The amounts increase year on year, creating pressure on friends and family who try to surpass their previous gifts; traditionally hongbao were filled with specially designed coins that had no monetary value at all. CCTV say that: “more than eight million mobile users embraced a new feature on WeChat to electronically send out millions in lucky money.”

Technology is playing a greater part in this age-old tradition. There has been a significant increase in the use of third parties to handle the large amounts of hongbao gifted online. All this creates less need for face to face contact, so people are able to get more money from a wider range of people.

Results taken from a recent survey of 90 primary and middle schools showed children averaging a total of 4,867 RMB form their red envelopes. This clearly marks a change in the spirit of the tradition. With hongbao value growing bigger and bigger,  evermore ways give and receive money, alongside rapidly rising incomes, the tradition is of hongbao is becoming far removed from what it once was.

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