It's the year of the rabbit! Chinese New Year is basically the Asian equivalent of the Christmas/New Year holiday season. It's the hugest holiday of the year and a time for family to get together and eat a ton of food. Instead of Christmas music, there's traditional New Year's music (er, I'm not a fan of the music). Instead of seeing Santa Clause around, there are posters and balloons of the god of prosperity. Instead of Christmas lights, there are lanterns and red banners. Instead of presents for family and friends, there are red envelopes.
This is the first year I've had to give out red envelopes. I would be totally clueless about red envelopes if not for my coworkers. I learned that you start giving out red envelopes when you start working, and that it's traditional to give red envelopes to your parents, your grandparents, and younger relatives still in school. There wasn't a consensus about younger cousins — some said you don't have to give red envelopes to anyone who's the same generation as you, some said that they do. Since I only have one younger cousin, I gave her one just to be on the safe side. There are traditions regarding the amount to give, as well. Odd numbers are unlucky, but not as unlucky as the number four. Also, the amount depends on how close you are with the person you're giving it to. And children are supposed to sleep with the red envelopes they receive under their pillows for good luck.
I got special bills for my grandparents' red envelopes! The most common denominations for bills in Taiwan are $100 (red), $500 (brown), and $1000 (blue). Here's a photo from my 2008 trip to Taiwan where my friend Justin is showing off some Taiwanese money (the green bill is $200, which is very rare). I think these are the old bills from before the redesign, but you can't really tell from this photo anyway.
When we took that photo, we didn't have this bill:
A bill in my favorite color! (I bet you thought my favorite color is green, but it's actually purple.) Pretty, right? That's the bill I got for my grandparents. I got one for myself to admire as well. :)
Anyway, hope you're having a fantastic Chinese New Year, even if you had no idea it was today!