How is the meaning of the Li Xi custom?

Li Xi on the first day of the year is a unique cultural trait in the Lunar New Year. Although the way of welcoming Tet nowadays and in the past has changed a little, this custom is always preserved and become a good part of the Vietnamese culture.

Following tradition, on the morning of the first day of Tet, all members of the family gather together to burn incense to pray to their ancestors and celebrate Tet. The children tell adults good wishes. Their parents give Li Xi red envelopes to them to get good luck. This custom can be indispensable in the Vietnamese traditional New Year.

li xi envelope
Li Xi is a part of Tet.

1. Origin of Li Xi custom and red envelopes

Li Xi in Vietnamese means Lucky money. Li xi envelopes are also called red envelopes – Phong bì đỏ in Vietnamese.

The custom of giving lucky money on the Lunar New Year’s Days has originated since ancient times in China, and there are also many stories explaining the birth of this red envelope. But perhaps the most popular is the story of the demon who likes to rub the head of children.

The legend tells, in China, there was a demon who loved to pat children’s heads in ancient times. This evil often appeared on New Year’s Eve when the children had slept well. The demon often came and rubbed their heads, causing the children to wake up, cry until the fever is high, and become stupid.

To keep children safe, parents often light up lights and watch their children through New Year’s Eve. This story also explains the custom of staying up on New Year’s Eve.

The story tells that there was a 50-years-old family when they gave birth to a plump baby boy, so the family was very pampered. On New Year’s Eve, eight fairies passed by and saw the evil trying to pat this boy’s head.

Realizing that his parents had a good heart, the fairy went out to save him by turning into 8 coins and told the boy’s parents to pack these coins in a red bag and put it next to the boy.

As the demon began to approach the sleeping baby, the red envelope wrapped in coins gave off a brightening aura, scaring the demon away.

The good news is followed by the others, every New Year’s Eve, the families wrap money in red paper envelopes and gave them to their children and grandchildren to pray for peace. Since then, this custom of giving lucky money on New Year’s Day was established.

li xi meaning
Li Xi envelopes

2. What is the meaning of red envelopes?

Li Xi in Chinese means to gain, get money, be lucky. Therefore, Li Xi is the lucky money that brings fortune and good things to children at the beginning of the year.

Today, the custom of giving lucky money on the Lunar New Year is very popular in Asian countries such as Vietnam, China, Singapore, Japan, etc. The meaning of Li Xi is to wish everyone luck, health, and fortune. So, both the recipients and the givers of the red envelopes also receive good things in the new year.

The meaning of the lucky money envelope is not in the amount of money, but in the goodwill, the good meaning of the action. Li Xi is usually small amounts of money, including change and even money.

The red envelopes also symbolize luck and happiness, creating privacy when giving Li Xi, not wanting the recipient to have a comparison. Therefore, the recipients should not open the envelopes in front of the givers, which is a polite way.

red li xi envelopes
Li Xi envelopes often get red color. ©Vietnamdrive

3. Giving lucky money in Vietnamese custom nowadays

According to Vietnamese custom, every Lunar New Year’s Eve or the first day, all members of families gather together to light incense sticks to their ancestors and enjoy eating and drinking to celebrate the new year.

This opportunity is also for children and grandchildren in the family to wish their grandparents and parents New Year’s greetings and receive lucky money to celebrate their new age. A red envelope with a small amount of money inside symbolizes good luck, good health, and much success in study and work that adults want to send to children.

Nowadays, giving Li Xi is no longer limited to the first day or the first three days of the year, but as long as there is a Tet atmosphere, one can still give lucky money to their children and grandchildren.

In addition, the custom of giving Li Xi is not limited to just adults giving lucky money to children. As long as you are a working person with an income, you can give lucky money to parents and grandparents. Not only family members, the custom of giving lucky money has expanded when friends, colleagues, and neighbors visit houses and wish New Year, you can also give lucky money to each other.

lucky money envelopes
Lucky money envelopes carry the best wishes in a new year. ©Vietnamdrive

4. How much money in Li Xi envelopes is enough?

The time has passed, the meaning of red envelopes also gradually loses its inherent beauty. In recent years, many people have often asked how much money in red envelopes is enough. That thinking puts more emphasis on material issues than on spiritual ones.

In the past, Vietnamese people used to put in red packets in red envelopes with denominations of VND 500 and VND 10,000, at that time both of these notes were red with the meaning of wishing for health, luck, and well-being for their children and grandchildren.

Now, the denomination of money in red envelopes is usually higher depending on the level of the recipient. For example, to parents, Vietnamese children who have worked often put more money in the red envelopes to express their sincere wish that their parents always have good health.

For children, most people give them the lucky money with at least the note of 50,000 VND. With that amount of Vietnamese money, the children can buy some toys or small things that they want.

lucky money
Lucky money is more and more nowadays. @grasshj_p

Regardless of the denomination of the money inside, the red envelope always retains its inherent meaning of wishing the recipients to have much good luck and good health in the new year.

With the changing of social needs, Li Xi envelopes are not only traditional red or yellow, but also have many more colors designed to suit everyone’s taste, and inside them are more money.

lucky money evelopes
Li Xi envelopes have various colors. ©Vietnamdrive

Li Xi’s custom and its red envelopes bring people closer together, that is to express affection and hope for a warm, peaceful, and lucky new year.

The new and traditional Tet coming with Vietnamese people has changed a little, but lucky money is still live and become a beautiful and indispensable cultural feature in the local life.

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    About the author

    The editorial staff of Vietnamdrive is a team of travel experts managed by Mr. Thom who has worked in tourism for 14 years. Trusted by thousands of tourists from all over the world.