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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 gifts to someone during the Chinese New Year holidays, you must personally go to his place and give the gift. It’s impolite to let other people give the 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 at 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 Years, gifts must be in pairs. But careful, gifts in 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 a color of sadness and poverty in Chinese culture. Similarly, color black is also considered inauspicious. Gifts neither in white nor black are proper. What’s the best gifts colors? Red and gold are the most popular gift colors in 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 are 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 you are paying your last respect to that person, which is very inappropriate and incredibly offensive.

2.No Shoes

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

3.No Umbrella

Umbrella in Chinese is homophonic to 散 (separate). In an occasion of reunion, it’s obviously 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 be left or separated.

5.No Medicine

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

6.No Personal Items

If the person you are about to give gift is not your life partner, personal items should be avoided as 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 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 values 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 gift to young children in hope of them not grow up too fast, and to the seniors wishing them not grow old quickly. The wrapping red envelope symbolizes good luck. While 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 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 completely random.


Alcohol has a long history in China and most Chinese people can drink a little, making alcohol a popular gift during 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 elder people, medicinal alcohol or health alcohol is better. For young generations, foreign alcohol might be better. For men, Baijiu or beer is definitely great. For women, wine or fruit alcohol might be well received.

3.Chinese Tea

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


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

5.Health Food

Health Food is very popular when it comes to give gifts to senior relatives. Most of the health food are 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 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 company to employees or clients, or from 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 in boxes as gifts between relatives are very popular in most places.

9.Hometown speciality

Nowadays, there are many Chinese people 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 always make great gift for their colleagues.

10.Chinese Calligraphy and Paintings

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