Do’s and don’ts to observe on Chinese New Year gifts


CHINESE New Year is the time for giving. Here are some do’s and don’ts to observe when getting your gifts ready. 



Pears: Avoid pears because the Chinese word for “pear” (lee) sounds like the word for “leaving” (li). Therefore, pears imply the separation of families and friends, which is surely not the message you want to convey!

Cut flowers: In Chinese culture, cut flowers are usually brought to funerals.

Using red ink for cards: Do not use red ink for CNY cards. In ancient times, the colour red was reserved for the dead. Till this day, many traditional people associate a letter written in red ink with bad news – a break-up letter, a curse, or news of a loved one’s passing.

The number 4: Four is a very unlucky number in Chinese culture as the word for four (si) sounds like death (si). Gifts should not come in fours either!


Fresh fruit: Fresh fruits, except pears (see above), symbolise life and new beginnings. Tangerines and oranges signify an abundance of happiness and prosperity. Peaches are usually offered to an elder. Pomegranates are presented to newly-married couples to represent fertility. Pineapples represent wealth, fortune and good luck in gambling.

Nian gao or kuih bakul: It is considered good luck to eat this sticky rice cake because it signifies increased prosperity.

Lucky bamboo: The number of bamboo stalks in one pot represents different things. Two is said to be an expression of love, three stalks bring three different types of luck (happiness, long life, wealth), six attracts prosperity and wealth and eight improves fertility.

Ang pow: The most traditional of all CNY gifts is the ang pow or hong bao, which, directly translated, means “red packet”. But don’t hand out ang pow with anything to do with the number four (RM4, RM40 etc) inside (see above).

My comment: And avoid white envelopes if want to give present money (Ang pow). That was given during the funeral.


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