Gift Giving for Chinese New Year!

Chinese New Year happens on February 12th, 2021. That means that the Year of the Ox is right around the corner! Gift giving is big during Chinese New Year celebrations, and if you’re giving gifts, you’ll want to know how to do it right.

Common Gifts

Alcohol - If your host drinks alcohol, a fancy bottle of their drink of choice is an excellent gift. China has a rich drinking culture, and drinking alcohol happens anywhere from nights on the town to business meetings. Baiju is the drink of choice for business meetings, so if the recipient is in business, baiju might be a good choice!

Fruit - Fruit baskets are another common gift, and baskets and boxes of fruit can be found in stores during this time of year. Some good choices are apples, which symbolize safety, and oranges, which symbolize fortune.

Tea - The Chinese love tea as a people, and their culture is rich with traditions surrounding tea. When gifting tea, a nicely wrapped box of loose leaf tea will be better received than bagged tea.

Toys - When giving gifts to children, nice toys are an excellent choice. Other good gifts for children include money, books, and school supplies.

Chinese New Year Kids

Colors Matter

If you’re giving a gift, red, yellow, and gold are the best colors. These colors evoke luck and prosperity for the new year. This can mean the color of the gift, or the color of the wrapping, or both.  Avoid the color blue, because it carries associations with death.

Numbers Matter

It is best to give gifts in even numbers. Any even number will do, except the number 4. The pronunciation of the number 4 is similar to that of the word for death, so gifts in groups of 4 are considered bad luck.

Give and Receive with Both Hands
Whether you are giving or receiving a gift, you should both offer and accept the gift with both hands. This is a sign of respect to both the giver and the recipient. This tradition is not limited to gifts, but extends to other things, like business cards.
Gifting Money

Gifting money is a time-honored tradition during the Chinese New Year. You can find Hungbao, red envelopes specifically for gifting money, in the shops during this time. Typically, older people will gift money to younger people; older siblings to younger siblings, grandparents to grandchildren, and so forth. It is considered poor form to gift worn or tattered bills, so fresh, crisp bills from the ATM are the norm.

Never gift money in white envelopes during Chinese New Year. These envelopes are used to gift money to the bereaved during funerals.

Gifting to a Group or Family

If you’ve been invited to a Chinese New Year celebration with a family or other group, you will want to bring gifts for everyone if giving gifts in public. If you’re not giving gifts to the whole group, give your gift in private. 

Gifting for families or groups generally goes in order from oldest to youngest. So give the first gift to the oldest family member, and then continue down by age.

What Not to Give

There are some items that are taboo gifts for Chinese New Year. While fruit is an excellent gift, you want to avoid pears. This is because the word for pear sounds similar to the word for leaving or parting. 

Giving a clock is also a bad choice, as the word for clock is a homophone for caring for a dying elderly person.

Don’t gift black items, as this color is associated with funerals. Similarly, avoid cut flowers, as these are traditionally gifts at funerals.

So, with those few simple tips, you’re well on your way to successful gift giving during the Chinese New Year holiday!

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