Chinese New Year Gifts and Gift Giving Etiquette In Chinese Culture

Culture is always a fun thing to learn. Family and society culture makes you who you are today. Knowing what is appropriate to do, and what is inappropriate, is considered fundamental. Gift giving is quite important in Chinese culture. What are the ideal gifts for Chinese New Year? What gifts do you to give to a newly-wedded couple in the Chinese culture? Do Chinese celebrate a birthday like in Western culture? What gifts are taboo in Chinese culture? Those are what we will learn in this post and in the infographic.

Chinese New Year Gifts

  • The older generations will give money to the younger generations. For instance, the grandparents to the grandchild, the uncles, and aunts to nephews and nieces, the parents to children.  
  • When choosing envelopes, be careful to get the red ones. You may also find white and blue envelopes for sale in stores, but those are for funerals. 
  • When giving money, ensure it is crisp and new. Also, be careful of the amount of money you put in the envelope, an “even number” is better and avoid any “number 4.”
  • Always start by presenting a gift to the oldest (or most senior) member if giving gifts to a large group or whole family.
  • When giving or receiving a gift always use two hands.
  • Giving gifts when visiting friends and relatives during Chinese New Year is common. It is a good idea to wrap your gifts in red or gold. Avoid wrapping them in white, black or blue.  
  • It is considered bad form to receive a gift and open it immediately in front of the giver. The person receiving the gift will likely express their thanks before putting the gift aside to open in private later.

There is some must-know Chinese vocabulary regarding Chinese New Year gifts.

新年 / 新年 Xīnnián

New Year, Chinese New Year

 

礼物/ 禮物 lǐwù

Presents, gifts

 

钱 / 錢 qián

Money

 

红包 / 紅包 hóngbāo

Red envelope

 

长辈 / 長輩 zhǎngbèi

Older generation

 

晚辈 / 晚輩 wǎnbèi

Younger generation

Let’s use those keywords to make a short paragraph.

中国新年的时候,长辈通常会发给晚辈红包,或是给他们礼物,红包里面会有钱。

Zhōngguó xīnnián de shíhòu, zhǎngbèi tōngcháng huì fā gěi wǎnbèi hóngbāo, huò shì gěi tāmen lǐwù, hóngbāo lǐmiàn huì yǒu qián.

When it is Chinese New Year, the older people in the family usually will give red envelopes or gifts to the younger ones. There is money in the red envelopes.

 

Wedding

If your friend is getting married in China or Taiwan, or your Chinese friend is getting married, what should you do?

  • In traditional Chinese culture, we usually give red envelopes to the newly-wedded couple. The amount of money you put in the envelope depends on the wedding dinner cost and also the relationship between you and the bride or/and groom. But be sure at least to cover the cost of the wedding dinner.
  • Giving gifts to a newly-wedded couple is more common now in Chinese culture. Household items are welcome but be sure to avoid those listed as taboo below. 

Some vocabulary for you to learn from this section…

婚礼 / 婚禮 Hūnlǐ

Wedding

 

结婚 / 結婚 jiéhūn

To get married

 

新人 / 新人 xīnrén

Newly-wedded couple

 

新郎 / 新郎 xīnláng

Groom

 

新娘 / 新娘 xīnniáng

Bride

 

亲家 / 親家 qìngjiā

Parents of one’s daughter-in-law or son-in-law, relatives by marriage

 

家具 / 家具 jiājù

Furniture

 

Birthdays

In Chinese culture, we celebrate birthdays, but not as much as celebrating Chinese New Year. Hosting a big birthday party is not really a done thing.

  • Good gifts for elder people include china, tea, supplements, or nutrition items.
  • Age-appropriate toys and books are good gift ideas for kids. 
  • For those in between, it is similar to the culture here. You can observe and know what the gift receiver may need or like. But be sure to avoid those listed as taboo below.  

Some vocabulary for you to learn from this section…

生日 / 生日 Shēngrì

Birthday

 

寿星 / 壽星 shòuxing

The birthday boy or birthday girl

 

茶 / 茶 chá

Tea

 

营养品 / 營養品 yíngyǎng pǐn

Nutrition

 

玩具 / 玩具 wánjù

Toys

 

书 / 書 shū 

Books

 

Chinese taboo gift ideas

Now, we will talk about Chinese taboo gift ideas…

  • Number 4: Four of any item would be taboo, because number 4 is “sì” and death is “sǐ”  in Chinese. Their pronunciation is similar. So, the Chinese consider the number 4 to be unlucky.
  • Clock: The phrase “gifting a clock” is “送钟 sòng zhōn” which sounds the same as “送终 sòng zhōng”, which carries a connotation of death. It means finishing all affairs of a burial ceremony.
  • Shoes: Chinese people believe that gifting shoes allows a person to “walk away” from a relationship.
  • Green hat: The phrase “to wear a green hat” or “戴绿帽 dài lǜ mào,” means that the man’s wife is cheating on him. So, no green hat as a gift to a Chinese man.
  • Pears: “Sharing a pear” 分梨 is a homophone of “separate,” both pronounced “fēnlí” in Chinese. By giving/sharing pears with someone, you are suggesting that you separate from them.
  • Umbrellas and fans: The words for an umbrella, “伞  sǎn” and fan shàn” sounds like “散  sàn” which means to separate.” By giving someone an umbrella or a fan, you are suggesting that you want the relationship to end.

 

Chinese New Year Related post and infographic

Interested in knowing more about Chinese New Year? We have another post and infographic about Traditional Chinese New Year Activities, and what a traditional Chinese New Year market looks like.

How about in your culture? Tell us what some of the New Year gift ideas in your culture are. 

 

Gift Giving Etiquette In Chinese Culture Simplified Chinese Version

Chinese new year gifts and Gift Giving Etiquette In Chinese Culture simplified infographic

 

 

Gift Giving Etiquette In Chinese Culture Traditional Chinese Version

Traditional Chinese Version

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