As a Chinese person and in particular as a business person, I often give and receive gifts during Lunar New Year. The purpose of gifting is really to just bring a smile to someone’s face and hope that your gift will bring happiness to someone’s life to begin a new year. It is also meant to bring them good luck or good wishes for the new year.
While I can’t say I am an expert in Chinese culture or the art of gifting, here are a few suggestions to keep in mind if you plan to give someone a gift for Lunar New Year:
1. The colour of the gift is important. The colour of the gift should be a colour associated with happiness or prosperity. Generally, you can’t go wrong with a red or yellow (gold) gift. So if you are thinking of gifting chocolates or wine, try to find red or gold packaging or wines with red or gold labels.
2. Numbers can also be important as some numbers sound like other words associated with either good or bad connotations. In general, Chinese people believe the number eight is a good number and the number 4 is not a good number. If you are buying wine for someone, try to find the 2018 vintage. Unlike Western culture, the number seven is generally not considered a lucky number.
3. Each year is marked with an animal of the Chinese Zodiac. This year it is the Year of the Tiger so any gifts like tiger toys or tiger stuffed animals might be great gifts
4. There are some things that are traditionally not given as gifts at Lunar New Year. Some of the explanations are quite unclear but it mostly has to do with bad connotations or the Chinese word for that item sounding like another unpleasant word. Gifts that are traditionally not given at Lunar New Year include knives, clocks and umbrellas.
5. Some gifts are quite traditional. I sometimes think this is more because they are inoffensive rather than really that these are great gifts. I would consider wine, alcohol, chocolates/candies, fruit baskets, orchid plants and tea to be safe, inoffensive gifts.
6. It is also traditional for elders and married couples to give young children red packets or envelopes (which nowadays are sometimes multi-coloured or gold-coloured). If your child is given a red packet, they should accept it gracefully with a simple thank you. It is seen as impolite to open the red packet in front of the person giving you the red packet.
Although modern society is much more casual these days, many people still take traditions surrounding Lunar New Year very seriously so you want to avoid joking or saying unpleasant things to those who celebrate Lunar New Year if you can.
So what are some good suggestions for specific Lunar New Year gifts?
1. Canada Post comes out with stamps and coins each year commemorating the Lunar New Year. These are nice keepsakes and gifts for good luck.
2. Richmond chocolatiers Wild Sweets produces Lunar New Year Gift Sets each year
3. For a bit more luxurious gift, Swarovski has produced an Asian Tiger holding a Chinese lantern on it tail for Lunar New Year
4. Each year, Penfolds and Johnnie Walker will produce products in special Lunar New Year packaging.
For those who celebrate Lunar New Year, I wish you a safe and prosperous Year of the Tiger!