Friday, February 5, 2016
Taipei has been coming alive with decorations in preparation for Chinese New Year. One of the traditions with this holiday is the giving of a Red Envelope. Monetary gifts are given in Red Envelopes, but the wish goes far beyond the gift itself. The color red symbolizes good luck so decorations and lanterns arounds the city are in red. The ultimate honor is giving an envelope of red color to someone. You only give these gifts to people in your family - parents give a monetary gift to their children, or adults give them to their aging parents - or you also give red envelopes to people who serve you. So we have been part of the group of Americans in our building, collecting and preparing gifts for the doormen who serve us each day. In other places we would do this at Christmas, but here we have waited to tip our staff during the Chinese New Year.
I've had several conversations with my co-workers about the Red Envelope tradition. I've noticed that they all look upon it fondly, the same as we think of the wistful years when we awoke early, excited to see what Santa had left under the tree for us. It's a fun tradition to take part in.
I was even given a red envelope myself. Similar to the one above, I have no idea what it said. It was from a realtor I've met a few times as I've gone apartment shopping for the embassy housing pool. He has a soft smile and kindness radiates from his face. When I left him a few days ago, he pulled out the envelope and said, "I have a red envelope for you. It doesn't contain any money, rather a verse I hope you will enjoy." He bowed his head towards me as he handed me the envelope with two hands. It is impolite to open the envelope in front of the giver, so I bowed my headed towards him and accepted the gift with two hands. I tucked it in my purse and waited until I was alone in the taxi to open it up, a bit curious about the verse. A little card had a verse in Chinese typed on one side and in English on the other. "But the land you are crossing the Jordan to take possession of is a land of mountains and valleys that drinks rain from heaven. It is a land the Lord your God cares for; the eyes of the Lord your God are continually on it from the beginning of the year to its end." Deuteronomy 11:11-12. I'm honestly a bit perplexed about the selection of this verse for this occasion. I'm looking forward to the next time I see him so I can understand the significance for him.
Happy Chinese New Year!