Lucky money (Vietnamese: tiền lì xì) is an irreplaceable gift during the Tết Nguyên Đán (Tet holiday) in Vietnam. Giving and receiving lucky money has been a precious custom in the country. Although the way of celebrating the Tet has changed a bit this custom will always be preserved and become an indispensable part of the Vietnamese New Year. It plays an essential role in creating a great atmosphere of holiday which we are enjoying nowadays.

The origin of lucky money

Legend has said the custom of giving lucky money on the Lunar New Year originated in China. According to legend, there was a monster that often appears on New Year’s Eve, fond of patting the heads of sleeping children, making them startle and scream. Therefore, their parents had to stay up all night to protect their children from the evil monster. At that time, there was a couple who just gave birth to a baby boy after a long time of getting married. And the monster had paid attention to this family. 

There were eight fairies who accidentally caught the sight and turned it into coins under the child’s pillow and wrapped in red paper by their parents to ward off the monster. And on that night, the monster came; however, it was scared by the twinkling light from the coins and could not put its hands on the child or harm him. The couple was happy to share the story with everyone and since then, people have started to put some coins into red envelopes and give them to the kids with their best wishes.

Meaning of “lì xì” – lucky money in Vietnam

Giving lucky money to others is a way to express a wish of luck and the best things happening to the receivers on the New Year. And if in the past when generally elders and adults would give children lucky money with the meaning of wishing that the child would grow up quickly, be healthy and always be at peace, today children also celebrate the new year for grandparents to wish them good health and live a long life; or friends, colleagues, neighbours, relatives …also can exchange with wishes.

Therefore, when guests come to visit on New Year’s Day, they also do not forget to give lucky money to the descendants of the owners with the first wishes of the year, and at the same time receive back the wishes of health, luck and prosperity. The main meaning of lucky money is not in “money” but the important thing is the wishes while how much money the envelope contains is not a big deal. 

Furthermore, red envelopes are usually red colour – the most auspicious colour for holidays or festivals. Moreover, it also symbolizes fortune – the more red envelopes people receive or give away, the more fortunes they will get it back in the new year.

How to give and receive lucky money

Lì xì is often given on the first three days of the Tet Holiday, which is from the 1st to the 3rd of January on the Lunar calendar. And below are some rules when giving and receiving the lucky money:

  • Avoid giving old dirty bills: with the new year coming, everyone tends to let go of the old and embrace the new. Therefore, lì xì contains old dirty notes that will bring bad vibes. That is why people have a habit of exchanging new bills at the end of the year.
  • ALWAYS use both hands when receiving “lì xì”, it will show deep respect for the giver, and do not instantly look inside the red envelope to see the bills.
  • Choose red or yellow envelopes to wrap “lì xì”
  • Givers also have to learn about the meaning of numbers. The number four should not appear in the red envelope as the pronunciation of the word four () is similar to the word death (). Meanwhile, number 8 is the most appropriate number to give lucky money, meaning to wish the receivers luck and prosperity.

How much “lì xì” should you put into the red envelope?

This is not only the main concern of first-time travellers to Vietnam during the Lunar New Year but also for local people… It’s sound ridiculous but there is no right answer to this question. 

Lucky Money in Vietnam

The amount of money put in the red envelope depends on the relationship between the giver and the receiver. Furthermore, most importantly, the precious value of “lì xì” is not evaluated by how much money you put in, but instead by the wishes and the way you give it. 

Source: collected by An

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