The Chinese population is unabashedly materialistic. It is not just the one percent who splurges on the finer things in life; the craving for money and luxurious goods is a world-wide phenomenon. According to an article written by Shaohan Lin in Medium.com, humans are primordially concerned with physiological and safety needs, but these concerns are of little import to emerging economies like China. People who can satisfy their basest needs are then preoccupied with belonging and esteem needs. Materialism and the quest for luxury items fit these criteria perfectly. Finally, having fulfilled all these requirements, humans will be seeking self-actualization.

This materialistic mindset has been prolific even during festive season like the auspicious Chinese New Year which is supposed to be a time for families and friends to get together. Married couples give away red envelopes containing money to the younger generation, greetings between families and friends often involve phrases that are related to great wealth and money.

What does Gong Hei Fat Choy and Sang Yi Hing Lung mean?

Although many folks associate this phrase with Chinese New Year, gong hei fat choy doesn’t mean Happy New Year. The greeting is frequently used at this time of year but it actually delivers a wish for prosperity to the person you say it to. It is literally translated as ‘Congratulations on your accumulation of wealth’.

If your family or friends are doing business, it is normal for you to wish them ‘Sang Yi Hing Lung’. This is a greeting reserved for proprietors,  wishing them good business results. It is commonly said to those business owners with whom you have a personal relationship.

New Year Movies in Hong Kong

Despite the fact that Hong Kong’s Chinese New Year films are relatively unknown outside of the city, movie producers have been making blockbusters only to coincide with the Spring Festival annually since decades ago because it’s all about marketing and labelling. Most of the new year movie plots concern prosperity and flaunting of excessive wealth. Movies are after all, the best propaganda medium to embed the materialistic mindset within the Chinese community.

A Hong Kong Chinese New Year movie titled ‘ I want to be rich’ in 2017 starring Bob Lam.
It’s a Mad, Mad Mad World (1987)

Meaning of numerical number 8 (‘Fat’) for Chinese

No. 8 has long been regarded as the luckiest numberin Chinese culture. With pronunciation of ‘Ba’ in Chinese or ‘Pat’ in Cantonese, no. 8 sounds similar to the word ‘Fa’ in Chinese or ‘Fat’ in Cantonese, which means ‘to make a fortune’. It contains meanings of prosperity, success and high social status too, so all business men favor it very much and you can often find the number 8 on car number plates.

The colour ‘Red’

Red, corresponding with fire, symbolizes good fortune and joy. Red is found everywhere during Chinese New Year and other holiday celebrations and family gatherings. Chinese often wear red attire on the first day of Chinese New Year.

Father and daughter spotted wearing red outfit two days ago during Chinese New Year.

red envelope is a monetary gift which is given in Chinese society during holiday or special occasions. The red color of the packet symbolizes good luck and prosperity.

Children receive lucky money in red envelopes

In other cultures, children receive gifts for holidays but Chinese children receive something else too – red packets that contain money.

This money is supposed to help transfer fortune from the elders to the kids. They can also be given between bosses and employees, co-workers, and friends. If you have attended local weddings, you would have given red packets during the wedding dinners. Your name is normally written down and recorded before you enter the banquet hall. Hence, you are basically footing your own bill to dine at your friend’s/relative’s wedding. The wealthier ones will normally give more money in their red packets during Chinese New Year or weddings as an indirect gesture to flaunt their wealth and status.

With the development of technology, digital red pockets are the trend now. People like to send one into group chats and watch the others fight for the money. This is called cheong hongbao or literally “snatching red pockets”.

The culture of giving money during the festive season has reached a whole new level as technology has gotten rid of the symbolic red envelopes that are supposed to be given only each time the recipients greet their seniors.

Giving red envelopes on Wechat

There are different ways to gift a Red Envelope on WeChat. First, you have the choice of sending an individual envelope or a group envelope. When sending an individual envelope, all you need to do is select a person and an amount of money. When sending a group envelope (to send to a group chat), you can select the number of recipients, the total amount of money, and how you want the money divided up between recipients (randomly or set amounts). When the number of recipients is less than the number of members in a group, members will have to tap, or qiǎng, quickly if they want to receive a cash prize.

happy chinese new year.little girl received red envelope
Sending money via Wechat