A good Chinese New Year gift is very different with that in western countries. It is neccessary to learn what are the good gifts and what are the gift taboos if you visit a friend or a relative in China during the Chinese New Year holiday.
Visiting relatives and friends during the Spring Festival holiday is one of the Chinese traditions. Usually from the first day of lunar month to the sixth day are the time to drop in the houses of grandparents, in-laws', brothers and sisters, and very closed friends.
Here are the 9 gift ideas and 6 gift taboos of Chinese New Year, which may help you avoid any awkwardness or misunderstanding.
9 Good Chinese New Year Gifts
A good Chinese New Year gift should contain several conditions: elegant packaging better in red color, express good wishes, pratical and useful. The following gift ideas are the most popular ones.
1. Red envelopes for kids
Lucky money in the red envelopes to kids is the most common gift during the Spring Festival. If you visit a friend who has kids at home, it's better to prepare red envelopes before you drop in. It is rude to put the money in a red envelope in front of the host's family.
Red envelope is called "Hong Bao" (红包) in Chinese. Usually the amount of lucky money to be put in a red envelope is 200 - 1000 RMB each. Well, you can decide it based on how close between you and the host.
A red envelope can be found in any convenience store in China. Commonly it costs only 1 RMB, and it is written with lucky words, such as happy new year or wish you be rich, in golden color on the cover. And there are dozens kinds of Chinese New Year envelopes on sale and update with different zodiac signs yearly. If you cannot figure out which is right for Chinese New Year, just tell the cashier that you want to buy a new year red envelope.
2. Liquor for elderly man
Chinese liquor may be the best gift for elderly men. A large part of Chinese men love high alchol (over 50% degree) liquor, while a small part would like wine. If you don't know what's the preferrence of the host, it's better to prepare two bottles of the most popular Chinese liquor in local area.
Remember to bring two bottles of liquor once. In Chinese tradition, even numbers are more welcomed.
3. Red cloths for elderly lady
Woman would love to wear something red and new for the Spring Festival. If you visit your mother in-laws or other elderly lady you are very familiar with, buy them cloths is a good idea. It can be a coat, a dress, a sweater, or a scarf, but its color should be red or dark red.
4. Health care products for seniors
Bring health care products to a senior's house is a wise choice. Healthy foods are always welcomed by the seniors. Oatmeal, calcium tablet, or American ginseng slices are easily to buy in a supermarket.
5. Gold jewelry for girlfriend / wife / mother-in-law
Some people would buy gold jewelry for their girlfriend, wife, or mother-in-law. Obviously it is not a common gift but may be the most surprising one. Many jewelry brands hold sales promotion events before Chinese New Year. Necklace, earrings, and bracelet have good discount for Spring Festival.
If you do not know what to buy as a Chinese New Year gift, prepare a box of milk is a right option, no matter for children, adults, or seniors. There are several famous brands of milk in China, but the followings are the most popular ones.
Fruits, as a gift, is never a bad choice, for spring festival, lantern festival, or mid-autumn festival. There are boxes of fruits or baskets with over 6 kinds of fruits selling in the market, such as apple, hami melon, mangosteen, pitaya, grapes, cherry, etc. Remember not to send pears as gifts. Pear, called "li" in Chinese , is pronunced the same as seperation.
The Chinese tea includes green tea, black tea, wulong tea, white tea, and yellow tea. Green tea is the most popular one. You can easily find some fancy boxes of tea in the supermarket during the Spring Festival. Most of them are in red package.
9. Snack pack
Snack packs are the most favored by children. Usually the snack packs are only sold during the Spring Festival. Many snack companies will design an unique package that contained with toys or a new flavor only for the Chinese New Year.
6 Gift Taboos
Most Chinese gift taboos are because their Chinese pronunciation are the same as other unlucky words, or referred to something bad.
- Pīnyīn: Xié
- Pronunce the same as evil in Chinese
2. Clock and watch
- Pīnyīn: Zhōng
- Pronunce the same as death in Chinese
- Pīnyīn: Lí
- Pronunce the same as seperation in Chinese
- Pīnyīn: Jìng zi
- Pronunce the same as prohibition in Chinese
- Pīnyīn: Shū zi
- Pronunce the same as loss in Chinese
- Pīnyīn: Dāo
- Refer to break up in Chinese
How many gifts should be send?
Four gifts is good enough. Here is the most popular gift set for a regular family: a red envelope for the host's kid, two bottles of Chinese liquor for men, a box of health care product for the seniors, and a basket of fruits for the whole family. Of course you can choose other gifts based on the preferrence of the host's family. In Chinese culture, a guest will never leave with hands empty in the Spring Festival. The host will also prepare some gifts for the guests, which is called courtesy demands reciprocity.