Lucky Cash for a Lucky New Year
The Year of the Tiger is just around the corner, and everywhere Lunar New Year is celebrated, people are busy preparing special food, travelling home to be with family and friends, and sourcing beautiful new banknotes to spread joy and luck in red envelopes.
In Chinese tradition, red is the colour of happiness, energy and luck. This led to the distinctive colour of New Year envelopes, with the money inside serving as a literal embodiment of good fortune. Bringing the two together in the form of red envelopes is a longstanding tradition observed not only within families but also businesses, with many employers providing cash gifts to employees. While all money is gratefully received, notes in mint condition are most highly coveted, leading to huge surges in demand around New Year.
In Hong Kong, banks started offering new notes two weeks ago, allowing customers to exchange old notes for freshly-printed ones. Opening hours were extended, with the first hour of business solely dedicated to note exchange services. One customer queueing for notes in Kowloon’s Mong Kok district said she would be exchanging around HK$10,000 ($1,280/€1,125) for Lunar New Year visiting.
In Singapore, note exchange has gone high tech, with online reservations being required by major banks to make collections as efficient as possible. Customers aged 60 and over, and those with disabilities, were permitted to collect notes without an appointment. Selected ATMs were also loaded with brand new notes, with the Monetary Authority of Singapore reporting around 100 million new notes are issued annually for New Year and other festivities.
Taiwan has also sought to better meet demand by offering dedicated ATM services, with 765 machines across the country serving new notes alongside 454 branches of financial institutions.
Alongside a desire for fresh notes, even amounts of money are preferred to odd, with amounts starting or ending in eight considered the luckiest. Any associations with the number four are to be avoided, since it is considered unlucky in Chinese-speaking countries due to sounding like the word ‘death’.
Once again—for over two billion people worldwide—cash is key to getting the new year off to a happy and prosperous start.