By Michael Evans
The Spring Festival custom of giving children red envelopes, or hongbao, containing small amounts of money is taking a toll on grown-up; pocketbooks, the Shanghai Daily reports. An online survey found that 40 percent of netizens allocated nearly three months salary for hongbao, with 70 percent expecting to spend more every year.
A report by TNS, a market research firm, found people on the Chinese mainland on average allocate 3,668 yuan (US$588.8) as red packet money for the Chinese New Year. An average red packet for family members contains 1,323 yuan, and those for relatives average 893 yuan, according to the report.
Daniel Tao, a Shanghai white collar worker, said his two-year-old daughter had received more than 10,000 yuan so far this year, mostly from relatives and friends.
“She really got a good harvest,” Tao said, adding that grandpa, grandma, uncles and aunties had each given the toddler 1,000 yuan.
“But we also have to give out a lot in return,” he said. “It’s almost a meaningless exchange.”
In addition to their traditional role as a kind-hearted holiday gift from elders to children, red envelopes have become a part of the gift-giving culture of bribery and patronage familiar in the adult world. A retired official recently complained to Xinhua that his child once received thousands of yuan in hongbao every Spring Festival, “But now, none would visit me except for the relatives.”