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Newlyweds hold their hongbao. Photos: VCG and Xiang Jun/GT

There is a long tradition in China which dictates that if someone attends a Chinese wedding, he should offer a hongbao (wads of cash stuffed in a red envelope) to the newlyweds.

Back in the old days, an ordinary family could not afford to hold a wedding. They depended on their friends and relatives to raise money together; call it "dynastic crowd-sourcing." Placing the cash in a red envelope symbolized vitality, happiness and good luck.

The Global Times asked some foreigners spotted on the streets of Shanghai about their thoughts on this tradition and if it conflicts with their own cultures' customs.

Rebecca Joslin, an Australian who lives in Switzerland, said that giving cash to newlyweds has become more common in Western countries. "We used to give presents to new couples, but now it's more common to give money. Because couples need things to start a life together and money is convenient."

The amount varies depending on the country. "I think if you come from a Greek background, you may give a lot of money. But if you are from an English background, you tend to give only a couple of hundred dollars," Czech national Narheta said.

Michael Facer from the US once attended a Chinese wedding. He didn't know the newlyweds very well, so he didn't give them a hongbao. "In my country, I usually just give a gift card. I don't give crockpots or toasters, but a lot of people do."

Serbian national Sever Zolak said that, nowadays, many people don't have time to prepare gifts for newlyweds, so in his country, people usually just give cash. "But I'm not a big fan of that. I like to receive a present, especially something that is unique. And I don't like to receive a gift from a person that I don't know."

"Maybe I will give money to people that I know a little bit, but not a good friend. For my friends, I will buy them a gift," Zolak added.

"It shouldn't be a specific amount. Whatever the person can give naturally from their heart, but not be pressured to give a large amount," American Kelly said.

As the quality of life continues to improve across China, hongbao amounts are also on the rise. But many younger Chinese are complaining that some newlyweds invite old friends or co-workers to their wedding just to collect cash from them.

"Some people who don't often contact you suddenly invite you to their wedding, just for your hongbao," a Chinese girl surnamed Tian said.

This article was written by Zhou Xinyu.



Michael Facer


Rebecca Joslin




Sever Zolak