Celebrated by approximately 1.4 billion people (including domestic and overseas Chinese people), the Lunar New Year is undoubtedly the most important holiday in China. This is the time for large family gatherings and offering blessings for the upcoming year. In Chinese tradition, throughout the first days of the New Year, Chinese people visit relatives, friends, and neighbors, offering lucky blessings and giving unique Chinese New Year gifts as a sign of respect.
In this article, we’ve listed the top 9 most popular Chinese New Year gifts for Chinese seniors, business partners, or friends, along with useful Chinese gift-giving tips.
8 Most Popular Chinese New Year Gifts
Tea holds a long history and cultural value in China. This humble beverage appears in almost every Chinese home and plays an important role in Chinese daily life. Tea is considered a healthy drink that originally only emperors and officials enjoyed. Nowadays, everyone can enjoy the great taste of tea and its benefits on health, along with a variety of tea selections, making it an ideal gift for the New Year. You just need to remember to avoid cheap tea bags, choose high-quality tea leaves packed in a nice tin instead.
2. Chinese teaware set
Historians hold that the first tea sets emerged in China during the Han Dynasty (206–220 BCE). At this time, teaware was made of premium porcelain and consisted of northern white porcelain and southern light blue porcelain.
Chinese tea sets are timeless, aesthetically pleasing, and functional. They’re easy to find and purchase, too – you can always find one with an elegant design at a reasonable price.
Fruit is a very popular gift choice for the Chinese New Year holiday. Giving fresh fruit as a gift symbolizes life and new beginnings. You will even see fruit used as temple offerings. You can always please a Chinese person with a basket full of colorful fruits – apples, oranges, kiwis, and other seasonal fresh fruits!
4. Wine and spirits
A nice bottle of red wine, a pair of red and white wine, or even Champagne can go a long way in China. Whiskey or other foreign spirits are also a great idea since they’re hard to buy in China. What’s more, during the New Year dinner, it is common that people toast each other, usually with wine or spirits, so it’s no wonder wine and spirits make terrific Chinese New Year gifts. 干杯!
Clothes are a perfectly practical yet sentimental gift. This is a common choice of the Chinese people – it is customary to gift their family, friends, or relatives with clothes. For example, you can complete a perfect New Year gift with a pair of gloves, a scarf, and a hat. These items show how much you care for the well-being and comfort of the recipient.
6. Hongbao (red envelopes with money)
Red envelopes containing money are a popular Chinese gift, especially for Chinese New Year, weddings, and birthdays. Children all across China eagerly await Chinese New Year for many reasons, including the many hongbao (red envelopes) they’ll receive, filled with a mysterious amount of lucky money.
It’s a great idea to stuff the red envelopes with “lucky” denominations, such as 200, 600, 800, or 900. Don’t hand out bad luck with 400 or anything with the number 4, the unluckiest of all numbers!
7. Customized Chinese name seal
A seal with one’s name customized is a timeless piece. This is an excellent gift for a Chinese friend, colleague, or business partner.
8. Gift cards
Many Chinese businesses offer gift cards as a New Year gift. The recipient can use these gift cards to purchase goods or services at supermarkets, restaurants, cafes, and other entertaining locations.
Now that you have the basics of the most common Chinese New Year gifts, we’ll go into detail about how to choose the most suitable gift for particular recipients.
Chinese New Year gifts for seniors
The proper gifts for parents and parents-in-law or other senior relatives or friends are wellness gifts (such as a massage chair, a foot spa massager, or a massage pillow) or tonic foods (e.g., edible bird’s nest ginseng and cordyceps).
Another good gift choice is clothes. As seniors tend to be more averse to the cold, warm clothes, hats, scarves, and gloves are useful. If the receivers have special hobbies, you can gift them according to their interests. For example, paintings and porcelain for antique collectors and a tea set for a tea lover.
Chinese New Year gifts for clients
If you have been running a business with Chinese clients, you may like to express your thankfulness to them after a successful year. In this case, putting a little effort into picking the appropriate gifts can go a long way.
Wine and spirits are a perfect gift choice for your Chinese clients. As we’ve explained above, these beverages are widely favored across cultures and often enjoyed during business gatherings. You can choose either Chinese liquor – 白酒 (Báijiǔ) or any high-grade wine from your home country.
High-quality teas are also great for any setting, and many business executives enjoy teas to combat their stressful lives. You can even choose Chinese calligraphy prints to gift your clients – these items are timeless and will always have a place at the client’s home.
Chinese New Year gift for friends, boyfriends, and girlfriends
If you’re preparing a New Year’s gift for your Chinese hosts or friends, you can select anything from the top 8 most popular gifts above. You can also gift them books, plants, and cacti – these items are also popular, easy to find, and purchase. Additionally, if you know the specific interests of the receiver, a special present or even a handmade item will still do, depending on the intimacy of your relationship.
Though it’s not traditionally customary to offer Chinese boyfriends and girlfriends New Year gifts, as a gesture, it still has significance. You can gift them gold jewelry, a symbol of wealth and an indication of financial stability, or jade. In Chinese culture, jade is considered a precious stone and is believed to protect the holder from evil. Lucky jade jewelry is definitely appropriate for a lucky new year.
Chinese New Year gifts for relatives, colleagues, neighbors
A carefully selected gift can help leave the receiver with a good impression of you. Showing care for the family’s health and well-being is deeply rooted in Chinese culture. Many self-care items like teas, massagers, and herbal medicines would fit. Otherwise, you can always choose fresh fruits, cakes (especially sticky rice cakes), and hongbao to gift your relatives, colleagues, or neighbors. Just keep in mind that giving a relatively practical gift shows that you’re thoughtful and that you genuinely care about the happiness and well-being of others.
Etiquette guidelines for gift-giving
A nice gift can still backfire if you’re unfamiliar with traditional Chinese gifting customs. Here are some key considerations when purchasing Chinese New Year gifts:
1. Avoid overly cheap or expensive gifts
The Chinese culture places a heavy emphasis on 面子 (miànzi, face/outer-side, reputation). Therefore, it’s very important to carefully consider your gift and choose a suitable gift for the recipient’s economic status.
Overly expensive gifts can be deemed inappropriate as it puts the receiver in an uncomfortable situation since they may not be able to return the favor with another expensive gift. On the contrary, you do not want to gift something of low value as you will come across as cheap or stingy. Sometimes, it is not just “the thought that counts,” in which case you’ll want to be aware of the gift’s monetary value.
2. Choose the right color of your gift and its wrapping paper
Color symbolism is an innate part of Chinese culture. Avoid black and white (as these colors are usually used in funerals) and go for red (good fortune), yellow (traditional color reserved for the emperor), and gold (wealth) for gift wrapping and packaging.
3. Mind the number
The number also matters in choosing and giving Chinese New Year gifts. You should prepare things in even numbers, like two bottles of wine or two cartons of cigarettes. Avoid odd numbers – it’s extremely impolite to bring three kinds of gifts when visiting a Chinese family.
Do not send gifts related to the number “4” because “4” 四 sì sounds like the word of “death” 死 sǐ in Chinese. Chinese lucky numbers are 6, 8, 9, which sounds more similar to lucky words.
4. Avoid certain gifts
There are certain gifts that you must avoid, especially during the Chinese New Year, which are the following:
- Watches or clocks: The Chinese character 送钟 (sòng zhōng) – send a clock rhymes with the word for “the end.” What’s more, gifting a clock literally feels like sending someone to the end or death. Clocks and watches symbolize bad luck or death in Chinese. Therefore, you must avoid giving this item.
- Green hats: In Chinese culture, green hats symbolize infidelity. You wouldn’t want the recipient to get the wrong idea, would you?
- Umbrellas: In Chinese, “umbrella” is 伞” (sǎn), which has a similar pronunciation to 散” (sàn) – to break up.
- Scissors and knives:
- Shoes: This word 鞋” (xié) – shoes sounds like “邪” (xié) – evil.
- Pears: The word 梨 (lí) – pears, sounds similar to (离 lí), which means leaving or parting.
5. Give the gifts at the right time
Like any other culture, while visiting family and the community, it would be rude to show up empty-handed. The ideal moment to give someone a gift is upon arrival at one’s house or the very moment you meet each other. Don’t wait until the end of a visit to you give your gift.
6. Don’t open gifts in front of the giver
Though this is no longer a matter of great importance amongst younger generations, generally, Chinese people do not open gifts in the presence of the gift-giver. This unspoken rule also applies when you receive gifts from someone. In this case, it’s best to refrain from opening it in front of everyone until later.
The bottom line
As Chinese New Year is the most important holiday of the Chinese, choosing and giving the right gifts shows your thoughtfulness and sensitivity towards the relationships between you and them. We hope this article gave you helpful advice on choosing the perfect Chinese New Year gifts.
Do you have any other suggestions for Chinese New Year gifts? Share with us in the comments below!
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