Recall the time when your boss hands you a bonus check for a job well done. Remember that feeling of excitement and anticipation before you opened it? That is the exact same feeling that the lucky red envelopes during Lunar New Year’s brings to all those who receive one. Today I will be sharing with you fascinating facts about this long honored tradition in the Vietnamese culture. First I will present a brief history of the red envelopes and next I will share the fond memories I have of them during my childhood.
I. The history of how the lucky red envelopes came about. A. Originally the red envelopes originated from China during the Qin Dynasty which lasted from 221 to 206 BC. 1. The elderly would thread coins with a red string in hopes that the money would ward off evil spirits and give them protection and good health. 2. According to Professor Maurer from the department of Anthropology at the University of California, Irvine, once the printing press became common, the tradition continued but instead of using thread and coins, it became red envelopes enclosed with money.
B. China greatly influences Vietnamese culture due to its orientation and military dominance. 1. Being located right under the vast lands of China, Vietnam is like China’s baby brother who imitates its older brother. 2. The meaning and significance in the Vietnamese culture resembles that of China’s, but differs in that only after the children wishes upon the elder many blessings will they then in return receive a red envelope from the elder.
II. As a little boy, the lucky red envelopes signified family bonding. A. All my uncles, aunts, and cousins gather at my grandparents’ house to receive these red envelopes during Lunar New Year’s. 1. Everyone gathered around the dinner table talking about all the ups and downs of the previous year. 2. One day in the year where my Vietnamese heritage was emphasized.
B. The lucky red envelopes taught me the importance of family. 1. The older family members recall stories of the past and would teach valuable life lessons to the children. 2. Throughout life, there are always ups and downs, but the thing that will always remain consistent is the love of one’s family.
Today I have shared with all of you some fun filled facts about the lucky red envelope, a Vietnamese artifact with rich roots. I first presented a brief historical background of the red envelopes and finished with its significance during my childhood years. Although the money enclosed brought joy, the emotions that are conjured up by simply receiving the red envelope far surpasses anything that money can buy. This is like when your boss hands you that big bonus check, the real joy does not come from the money, but comes from the satisfaction of a job well done.
Maurer, Bill. “Red Envelopes.” UCI Anthropology. 2006. Web. 2 July 2013.