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Chinese New Year Gifts-Giving Etiquette

4 Rules for Chinese New Year Gifts-Giving

1.Personally Give the Gifts at the Right Time

When you plan to give someone gifts during the Chinese New Year holidays, you must personally go to his place and give the gift. It’s impolite to let other people show gifts on your behalf. To avoid the situation that your recipient isn’t at home, you can call to ask when it is convenient for them to host you. Meanwhile, please pay this visit in the late morning or early afternoon. It’s inappropriate if you visit early in the morning or in the evening.

2.Give the Chinese New Year Gifts in Right Numbers

There is a saying in Chinese that good things should be in pairs. In the festive Chinese New Year, gifts must be in pairs. But careful, gifts in an amount of 4 should be avoided. In Chinese culture, number 4 is an unlucky number that associates with death.

3.Give the Chinese New Year Gifts in Right Color

Although white symbolizes pureness and innocence, it’s more like color of sadness and poverty in Chinese culture. Similarly, the color black is also considered inauspicious. Gifts neither in white nor black are proper. What are the best gift colors? Red and gold are the most popular gift colors in the Chinese new year. Those two colors are considered festive, auspicious, and harmonious.

4.Prepare Some Greetings

Some greetings accompanying the gifts giving would be good. The most simple but commonly used greeting is Gong Xi Fa Cai (恭喜发财, May you be happy and prosperous), Xin Nian Kuai Le (新年快乐, Happy Chinese New Year), He Jia Xing Fu (阖家幸福, Wish you a happy family), Shen Ti Jian Kang (身体健康, Wish you good health), Wan Shi Ru Yi (万事如意, Hope everything goes your way). These are just some commonly used blessings; you can also customize greetings to express your good wish to others.

6 No-nos on Chinese New Year Gifts

1.No Clock or Watch

Clock or watch in Chinese is pronounced Zhong, which is homophonic to 终 (the end). Sending someone a clock or watch is like paying your last respect to that person, which is wildly inappropriate and incredibly offensive.

2.No Shoes

Shoes in Chinese is pronounced Xie, which is the same sound as 邪 (the evil). It’s inauspicious in the Chinese new year.

3.No Umbrella

Umbrella in Chinese is homophonic to 散 (separate). On an occasion of reunion, it’s improper to give someone an umbrella.

4.No Pear of Plum

Both pear and plum sound like Li (离) in Chinese, which means you wish someone to be left or separated.

5.No Medicine

You can’t give someone medicines as a gift, but healthy food is ok.

6.No Personal Items

If the person you are about to give a gift is not your life partner, personal items should be avoided as a gift.

How to receive gifts from others in China?

1.Receive the gifts with both hands to show your respect.
2.Chinese people usually don’t open the gift in front of the giver. However, if you want to open before the giver’s eyes, you need to check with him first.
3.After receiving a gift, it’s appropriate for you to give something back as a gift. You can’t give right after you receive this gift. Instead, you need to prepare this gift and go to the giver’s home some other time. Chinese people value the idea of courtesy demands reciprocity. Thank you note is unnecessary in China.

Common Gifts in Chinese New Year

1.Hong Bao (red envelope)

Hong Bao refers to a red envelope that contains cash. It’s mainly given as a gift to young children hoping that they will not grow up too fast, and to the seniors wishing them not to grow old quickly. The red wrapping envelope symbolizes good luck. In contrast, the cash inside the envelope is called lucky money. There’s no rule on how much cash to put inside, but it’s better to put even numbers of cash like 200, 666, or 888 RMB. It’s inappropriate to open the red envelope in front of the giver. Nowadays, younger generations prefer digital Hong Bao (money). The most popular one is the Wechat Hongbao. Besides sending WeChat Hongbao directly to someone, people also love to build Wechat groups and send WeChat Hongbao in those groups. Other people in these groups can race for a piece of the Hongbao. The amount of money one can get is entirely random.

2. Alcohol

Alcohol has a long history in China, and most Chinese people can drink a little, making alcohol a popular gift during the Chinese new year. Baijiu is the first choice. However, other kinds of alcohol can be chosen according to the recipient’s preference. For example, for older people, medicinal alcohol or health alcohol is better. For young generations, foreign alcohol might be better. For men, Baijiu or beer is great. For women, wine or fruit alcohol might be well received.

3.Chinese Tea

As one of China's national drinkings, Chinese tea plays an essential role in Chinese people’s life. A lot of people love to drink tea. It’s also popular to give Chinese tea as a gift.


Although smoking is prohibited in most public spaces, the cigarette is still a right gift choice for many male elders. If you have a father-in-law who likes to smoke, a cigarette box will help win him over. Of course, you need to warn him not to smoke too much.

5.Health Food

Health Food is very popular when it comes to giving gifts to senior relatives. Most of the healthy food is elegantly packed in beautiful boxes. Remember to check the expiration date and tear off the price tag before you give it away.

6.Gift Bag

The gift bags that contain either various kinds of candies, cookies, or nuts are another commonly seen gift during the Chinese new year. Such gifts are mostly given to families with kids.

7.Shopping Card

The shopping card only got popular in recent years. Instead of being given to parents, relatives, and friends, shopping cards are usually gifts from the company to employees or clients or subordinates to superiors.

8.Boxes of Drinks

Some people don’t drink alcohol; in this case, a box of drinks would be a great gift. In fact, drinks inboxes as gifts between relatives are very popular in most places.

9.Hometown specialty

Nowadays, many Chinese people are working outside their hometown, leaving their parents at home. They always return home for the Spring Festival. After the holiday, they will come back to the place where they work. Their hometown specialty will still make an excellent gift for their colleagues.

10.Chinese Calligraphy and Paintings

With life conditions improving dramatically in China, many Chinese people turned to value spiritual enjoyment. Therefore, Chinese calligraphy and paintings are great gifts for such people. It’s very common to see calligraphy or painting masterpieces hanging on the walls of many Chinese houses.

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