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Lai see Etiquette

  1. #1
    capital is offline Banned
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    Lai see Etiquette

    I would like to hear what is the going etiquette around Lai See in Hong Kong. DO you always give to people who are unmarried, or should you stop if they are of a certain age, or if they are relatives, you must give anyways? Is it true if you are married you give2, and if you are no longer married you give 1, what are the usual amounts you put in them? Is it different for adults vs. children? I feel a little silly giving them to my brother in law who is older than me but is younger than my husband, he is in his mid thirties, what if he never gets married, do we still give them when he is 70?

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    LLL_Sarah is offline Registered User
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    I too found this confusing when I was first married.

    Basically when you marry you take on the age of your husband, so would give to all your husband’s unmarried, younger siblings and everyone in the younger generation whether they are married or not. (I’m guessing this isn’t an issue for you yet but give it time and it will be! It means that as you get older it becomes quite expensive.)

    The amount really depends on what you can afford. Most people give notes so $10 note or $20 note is usually. Some rich people give $100. I believe this was one of the reasons why everyone was against getting rid of the $10 note.

    My daughter stayed a couple of nights with a friend in Taiwan one New Year and was given $100 lai see packets by the friend’s relatives. All her siblings were jealous that she’d got so much more money then they had.

    Also you give lai see to your own children the night before the New Year and again after the New Year. So my father-in-law gives to all his children plus the spouces and all the grandchildren (and maybe soon to the great grand children too).

    If you and your husband are together then you would both give one packet each but if your husband wasn’t with you then you’d give two packets (one for you and one for your husband).

    Also remember that when someone gives you a gift at Chinese New Year (like a box of chocolates or a box of fruit when you they visit you) you must give a lai see packet to them as a thank you.

    When I was first married many of my husband’s aunts and uncles were still alive and so I still collected quite a few lai see, and his family came to visit us on about the 14th or 15th day (the visiting goes by age hierarchy). Now many of this older generation have died and I only get two lai see and the family comes to visit us on the 2nd day.

    When my youngest sister-in-law got married some years ago I was asked to recite a poem and brush her hair (quite an honour). This was because I was proved very fertile with two daughters and two sons, had potential long life as both my parents ware still alive and also I was then the eldest female in the family. (I’m no longer the eldest female in the family as my older brother-in-law has since married and although his wife is at least 15 years younger than me she now has that honour!)

    Hope this helps some,
    SARAH

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    capital is offline Banned
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    Thanks for the info. It helps a lot. I do have some questions though.

    So I would give to my brother in law since he is single, but once he is married I don't give him one anymore, but to his children (in the future) I would give them whether or not they were married. Am I understanding that right?

    When you say you give to your own children after new year again, do you mean the next day, the first day of teh new year, or do you mean after all the days of teh new year time period?

    Who usually takes the responsibility to know who to give them to, to buy them, to stuff them, the husband or the wife?


    This is all very interesting. I don't really have anyone to ask because my husband seems to not know all the "rules". His mom tells him who he needs to give to, or will give on our behave, which I don't like. My cantonese is not good enough to ask anyone in his family what to do.
    Last edited by capital; 12-02-2006 at 01:24 PM.

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    i'ts basically for those people are are NOT MARRIED and usually younger.

    however, we still get it from hy hubby's parents.

    the other aspect is that you can give it to those people who are generally of service throughout the year, REGARDLESS of if they are married or not.

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    LLL_Sarah is offline Registered User
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    So I would give to my brother-in-law since he is single, but once he is married I don't give him one anymore, but to his children (in the future) I would give them whether or not they were married. Am I understanding that right?

    Yes that’s right.

    It gets quite expensive for the older generation. We would help out my mother-in-law (who had no income of her own) by giving her a monitory gift about three weeks before the New Year.


    When you say you give to your own children after new year again, do you mean the next day, the first day of the new year, or do you mean after all the days of teh new year time period?

    We give our children their first lai see before we travel to my father-in-law’s on the eve of the New Year. And we get lai see from my father-in-law during or straight after the dinner before the youngsters start heading out for the evening parties.

    We give the second lai see when we see the children again after the New Year. If we go straight home from my father-in-law’s this will be on the morning of the New Year. But often we go to a party at a friend’s home and see the new year in there. So we give our children their second lai see when we start to give out to all the children at party (usually within 5 minutes past mid-night).


    Who usually takes the responsibility to know who to give them to, to buy them, to stuff them, the husband or the wife?

    I don’t think this matters – just whoever does that sort of thing in your family/relationship. Usually I go to the bank and get the new notes because it is easier for me to get to the bank during the day than for my husband. Likewise I’ll ask at the bank for the empty lai see packets. I usually go from one bank to another, everywhere we have an account, and get as many packets as possible. The first year we were married we actually got ones with our names printed on them but now we use the ones from the bank. The only ones I refuse to use are the ones my sister-in-law gets from Wyeth – this is just a lactation consultant thing!

    We usually spend an evening watching TV when the children are either in bed or out (my eldest is now 19 years old) filling them up. We tend to have different prices depending who they are for and give my nephews and nieces more than for other children – then you have to remember which are which!

    As Cara pointed out on top of giving to the children or younger generation you give to those in your employ as well. And if you are employed you will receive one at work – this you will get on your first day back after the holidays.

    When I had a local helper we would give her a 13th month before she left for her Chinese New Year holidays and then a lai see the first day back. I really liked having her to help look after my children as they got a lot of local language skills and local culture from her that I wasn’t able to give. The only down side was she always wanted a long holiday at Chinese New Year.

    My husband usually tells me who I should give the packets to if I don’t know. I get confused who is in what generation with all the cousins, especially his mother’s brother’s family. His uncle had loads of children and some of my husband’s cousins are now grandparents, so we give quite a few people who are married but in the next generation. As I said earlier this might not be an issue for you yet – but in time!

    I believe that my mother-in-law may have told my husband who to give to in the first years of our marriage but no longer.

    I do find the family connections amazing. I once went to a wedding and my husband was telling me who everyone was. It seemed to me that everyone was related to the groom. In the end I asked if there was a problem as none of the bride’s family were at the wedding. Then I learnt that the bride was related to the groom as well. But my husband being Chinese only told me of the relationship to the groom.

    Best wishes,
    SARAH
    Last edited by LLL_Sarah; 12-02-2006 at 06:16 PM.

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    so, question here... are we all white women married to chinese guys???
    if so, i'm amazed as in our nearly 9 years together here i've only met a couple of couples like us!

    i'm glad to know there are more of us around!
    (are your men local or overseas chinese?)

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    LLL_Sarah is offline Registered User
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    The other thing that I didn’t mention is that my husband makes the children say little Chinese rhymes before he gives them the lai see. This is normal (and something that happens if you watch the Cantonese TV). I always learn a couple to say to my father-in-law. Things like wishing him a strong and happy life. My family never want anyone to say the same rhyme twice so I always try to get in first, otherwise I’m really stuck.

    My husband also gets the children to make the Chinese decorations. They seem to enjoy using the pens and writing on the red paper and then sticking them up around the house. And my husband makes the one for outside our front door. His is usually some sort of political statement which I only understand because he explains it to me. He also makes me a special slogan decoration for the Kitchen God – as I am always in favour of as much help as I can get in cooking.

    SARAH

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    LLL_Sarah is offline Registered User
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    Yes I’m English and my husband is Chinese born in Hong Kong, although his parents came here when they were young from Southern China.

    I’ve been living here for nearly 21 years and I think there are loads more mixed couples (even our way) then there were 10 years ago.

    Iin my children’s classes at school about one quarter to one third are from mixed families.

    I have met you, if only briefly, at Queen Mary about six weeks ago.

    Best wishes,
    SARAH

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