Chinese New Year is a time for giving. It is a time when for once in the year the older generations acknowledge the youth. Within families the older and married members give out Lai See (red pockets, also known as red envelopes) to the unmarried younger friends and family around them, especially children. With the tradition in our family we give Lai See to our friends children. This is something that is pretty common in Hong Kong. The Lai See contain money and the values can vary but normally follow the range of $10, $20 or a $50 dollar bill per red pocket. Really it is about the token gesture of appreciation.
There is also a tradition to how Lai See are given. They are given with 2 hands, and received by the child with 2 hands in return, along with a thank you and a Gung Hey Fat Choi or another phrase of prosperity, happiness, longevity … you probably get the picture. The Lai See are not supposed to be opened then and there, instead kept until the kids get home.
The money in the Lai See is the kids money – theirs to use as they wish. So, after that longish introduction, Bethany and Mitchell sat down to count their Lai See at the table the other day. Bethany was very happy as she is using every cent she saves to put towards her goal of an iPad. She happily tallied her money as she opened all her red pockets.
Mitchell on the other hand is only just grasping the concept of money and values. For him opening the Lai See was a truly exciting experience, not for the tally of the final amount, but for purely finding money in every red pocket he opened! One by one, every red pocket he opened was greated by “Oh wow! Money – Look it’s a ten dollar!” or “Look Mummy! A twenty! A twenty!”
The value didn’t matter to him. He delighted in the simple pleasure of receiving a small gift. It was adorable to watch the simple innocence. At the end I asked him what he would like to do with all his money. He thought about it seriously for a minute and finally answered “I want to save it … but can I use some to go to the toy store and buy a big airpwane?”
“Of course!” I replied, to which I was greeted by his million dollar grin.
Inside I was proud of him for not wanting to race out and spend it all straight away. Similarly I am equally proud and very impressed by Bethany. Theoretically it will take her a year or more to save for an iPad (we’ve outright told her we will not buy her one and nor will Santa give her one) and she is taking her saving very seriously in an effort to achieve her goals.
If my kids can see the value in saving I hope it will put them in a good position as they get older to manage their money. So while getting Lai See is a celebration of the Chinese New Year it is also a great way for the kids to get exposure to money and take some responsibility with how they use it.