Can You Spend Chinese Lucky Money? All You Need to Know

"Can You Spend Chinese Lucky Money? While the ceremonial significance of these vibrant red envelopes lies in the act of gifting and receiving them, it’s important to note that the recipients have complete freedom to use the money as they please. So, let's delve into the intricacies of this cultural phenomenon and discover the fascinating ways in which Chinese lucky money can be utilized.

How Much Money Do You Give for a Chinese Birthday?

When it comes to giving money for a Chinese birthday, there are cultural rules and superstitions to consider. One important factor to remember is to avoid giving amounts that include the number In Chinese culture, the number 4 sounds similar to the word death, which is considered to be highly unlucky. Therefore, it’s best to steer clear of denominations like 40 yuan or 400 yuan.

Instead, it’s advisable to give even numbers, as they’re generally more favorable than odd numbers. However, it’s important to keep in mind that even numbers that include the number 4 should still be avoided. For example, amounts like 14 yuan or 44 yuan would still be perceived as bad luck.

If you want to ensure the money you give enhances luck, it’s recommended to choose an amount that starts or ends with the number eight. The number 8 is considered extremely lucky in Chinese culture, as it sounds like the word for wealth or prosperity. For instance, giving 800 yuan or 88 yuan is seen as highly auspicious and can bring good fortune to the person receiving it.

Furthermore, it’s worth noting that the higher the amount you give, the more generous it’s considered. In Chinese culture, giving money in significant figures is seen as a sign of respect and good wishes. Therefore, if you’re close to the person celebrating their birthday, it may be appropriate to give a larger sum of money, such as 888 yuan, to convey your good intentions.

Traditional Customs or Rituals Associated With Chinese Birthdays

  • Red egg and ginger party to celebrate a baby’s first month
  • Offering of longevity noodles to wish for a long life
  • Lighting of birthday candles on a round birthday cake
  • Presenting gifts and red envelopes with money
  • Burning incense and praying for blessings at a temple
  • Offering special foods, such as sticky rice cakes, for good luck
  • Performing lion or dragon dances for entertainment
  • Wearing red clothing for good luck
  • Writing and exchanging birthday couplets for good fortune
  • Setting off firecrackers to ward off evil spirits

Red packets, also known as lucky money, hold great significance in Chinese festivities. These traditional envelopes, originated during the Qing Dynasty, signify more than just monetary generosity. They serve as protective charms, warding off evil and safeguarding the well-being of the recipients, especially the young. Now, let’s delve into the purpose and various aspects of lucky money in Chinese culture.

What Is the Purpose of Lucky Money?

Instead of presenting the money in a plain envelope, it was believed that using red envelopes would bring good luck and blessings to the recipient. The red color holds great significance in Chinese culture as it’s associated with prosperity, joy, and good fortune. Therefore, the act of giving lucky money is seen as a way to pass on good wishes and blessings to others.

Lucky money is most commonly given during Chinese New Year, weddings, birthdays, and other special occasions. It’s often given by married couples or older family members to the younger generation, symbolizing the passing on of good fortune, wealth, and blessings. However, it’s important to note that lucky money isn’t limited to family members and can also be given to friends, colleagues, or as donations to charity.

Traditionally, lucky money isn’t meant to be spent immediately. Instead, it’s intended to be kept and saved as a symbolic representation of good luck and prosperity. Many individuals choose to save their lucky money in a specific location, such as a savings account or a traditional Chinese money box, known as a “money tree.”

Some individuals may choose to save it, while others may opt to use the money for purchasing desired items or experiences. Ultimately, it’s a personal decision based on individual beliefs and preferences.

It’s worth mentioning that lucky money has evolved with the advancement of technology. In recent years, digital red packets have become increasingly popular, especially through smartphone applications. These digital red packets allow individuals to send and receive lucky money electronically, making the tradition more convenient and accessible in todays fast-paced world.


Despite the ceremonial significance of the red envelope in Chinese culture, the act of giving and receiving is where it’s importance lies. Once you’ve been given the lucky money, you’ve complete control over how you choose to use it. Whether it's for purchasing something you've been eyeing, saving it for a rainy day, or even donating it to a charitable cause, the decision is entirely yours. So go ahead, embrace the generosity and good fortune that comes with Chinese lucky money and let it bring joy and prosperity into your life.

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