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A Guide to Perfect Lunar New Year Gifting for Kids, Family, and Beyond

The Lunar New Year is also known as the Spring Festival in lots of cultures. It is a celebration marking the beginning of the new year based on the lunar culture. Its origins date back to about 3,500 years ago! The Lunar New Year is deeply rooted in ancient agricultural practices and folklore in Chinese culture. Nowadays, its observance has spread far and wide across East and Southeast Asian countries.

The Lunar New Year is packed with cultural symbolism and practices. These include a thorough house cleaning to sweep away ill fortune and make way for incoming good luck and elaborate family feasts. I always feel much more prepared to seize the day when my home is clean and tidy, so this is definitely something I can get on board with!

Lunar New Year feasts often feature the following symbolic foods:

  • Fish with its head and tail attached to represent abundance and a thriving beginning and end for the coming year
  • Poached whole chicken for family unity
  • Dumplings stand for wealth, and many people believe that the more dumplings you can eat during the celebrations, the more profitable your new year will be

Additionally, red envelopes filled with money (called hóngbāo) are given to children and unmarried adults to symbolize good wishes and plenty of luck for the new year. Similar to the Gregorian New Year, you'll see plenty of fireworks, with the addition of lion dances to ward off evil spirits.

The Lunar New Year isn't just a time for celebration. It is also a reflective period of time for your honoring ancestors. For many East and Southeast Asian people, it is a time deeply entrenched in tradition that gives a chance to strengthen cultural identity in the diaspora.

When is the Lunar New Year in 2024?

The festival is celebrated at the turn of the traditional Chinese lunisolar calendar. In 2024, the Lunar New Year will start on February 10th, marking the beginning of the Year of the Dragon.

Typically, dates fall between January 21st and February 20th. The celebrations last for 15 days, culminating in the Lantern Festival on the 15th day of the first lunar month. During the Lantern Festival, people hang lanterns of various shapes and sizes and often solve riddles written on them.

Gifting is an integral part of Lunar New Year traditions and is a way to show respect and love. We've already covered the common red envelopes for children and unmarried adults. However, we've created a huge list of options if you're looking for Chinese New Year gift ideas for friends, employees, seniors, or kids.

5 Popular Lunar New Year Gifts for Friends or Coworkers

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Remember, you have to think about the level of closeness and intimacy when you're choosing gifts for friends or coworkers. We've all accidentally misjudged this one, right?

Have a look at some gifts ideas:

#1: Foods 

Some traditional Asian foods that are both delicious and symbolic are edible bird's nests to promote good health and longevity, ginseng to revitalize, and goji berries for their famed antioxidant qualities. You can package these foods in decorative boxes or elegant baskets for extra brownie points.

#2: Tea 

In Chinese culture, tea symbolizes respect and good health. Gifting a tea set or packets of fancy tea is a thoughtful way to convey respect and best wishes. Perfect to give a practical gift that also has cultural significance!

Some popular choices of Chinese teas with unique flavors and health benefits include:

  •   Green tea, such as Longjing
  •   Black tea, such as Keemun
  •   Oolong, such as Tieguanyin
  •   White tea, such as Bai Hao Yin Zhen
  •   Puerh tea

#3: Fruit Baskets 

A well-presented basket with oranges, apples, or a mix of fruits is always a thoughtful gift because fruit embodies good fortune and health. Oranges and tangerines are especially popular because they symbolize wealth and luck, but you can also include apples for peace or pomegranates for fertility.

#4: Chocolates 

Is there any occasion where gifting chocolate is a bad idea? Not in my book. For the Lunar New Year, various flavored chocolates such as matcha, durian, or wasabi chocolates cater to different tastes and make for an exciting gift. Multi-flavored chocolates symbolize hopes for rich and varied experiences in the new year.

#5: Practical Home Supplies

When you don't know what type of food somebody likes, gifting practical home supplies shows thoughtfulness and consideration for the recipient's daily life and needs. Some great ideas for this are smart kitchen, gadgets, elegant crockery, or high-quality bed linens. I always like to buy one step up from something I would typically buy for myself to make everyday tasks more luxurious and enjoyable for the giftee.

5 Popular Lunar New Year Gifts for Clients

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Selecting a gift for clients during the Lunar New Year is an excellent opportunity to convey respect and well wishes for prosperity and success in the year ahead and strengthen relationships. Remember to always choose appropriate gifts for a professional setting and reflect cultural sensitivity. 

Here are five popular gift ideas for clients:

#1: Zodiac Animal Objects 

Selecting a gift featuring the Chinese zodiac animal of the year is very thoughtful. For example, this coming year will be the Year of the Dragon, and items like dragon-themed sculptures, artwork, or even office supplies can be ideal. This shows an appreciation of the client's cultural heritage, and items featuring the zodiac animal of the year are thought to bring good luck and prosperity.

#2: Tea Sets 

Whether you select traditional Chinese tea sets with teapots and cups or modern minimalist designs to cater to different tastes, it is a nod to the importance of tea in Chinese culture and a symbol of peace and hospitality.

#3: Water Bottle or Coffee Mug

Hydration is as important in the new year as it was in the old year. High-quality water bottles or insulated coffee mugs make for practical and appreciated corporate gifts to give for Lunar New Year and can be branded with a company logo for a personal touch. 

The versatility of these gifts makes them an especially popular choice.

#4: Gift Boxes

Do you love gourmet food boxes? Chances are your clients will appreciate customized gift boxes for the Lunar New Year. These can be anything from food to luxury stationery sets or wellness products. Slipping in a gift card gives your client extra flexibility.

#5: Exotic Plants 

Receiving plants for the Lunar New Year is a great way to beautify office spaces. As an added bonus, they symbolize growth and prosperity. Some fantastic choices are:

Orchids represent luxury and strength. Make sure not to have them sit in standing water and keep them in indirect sunlight away from any drafts. Orchids can be pretty picky!

Bonsai trees offer plenty of tranquility and balance. This beautiful plant needs weekly watering and will be a happy camper near a south-facing window.

Bromeliads give good fortune for the new year. Water the center of their leaves and avoid the soil to prevent root rot. Medium to bright light is your best bet with Bromeliads.

Top tip: if you can, make sure to take into account what growing conditions your client's office has!

5 Popular Lunar New Year Gifts for Employees

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Our employees are our greatest asset, and selecting a thoughtful Lunar New Year gift for them is a wonderful way to show your appreciation for all their hard work and dedication. 

Here are five popular gift ideas:

#1: Gift Card 

The most versatile option is a virtual gift card. Consider cards from popular retailers like Amazon, Starbucks, or Walmart. This allows your employees to select something they really want or need (hopefully both). Additionally, it's convenient for both the gifter and the giftee. Perfect choice for corporate gifting!

#2: Customized Merchandise 

I will never get over how exciting it is to see my name on something. Personalized items like coffee mugs, pens, and notebooks with employees' names or initials add a personal touch to the gifts. This way, you're showing appreciation and fostering a sense of belonging! Add the animal of the year to the personalization for a touch of cultural appreciation.

#3: Chocolate Sets

I'll say it again, chocolate never goes amiss. 

Assorted chocolate boxes and gourmet selections make for delightful gifts. Just like for your friends or coworkers, you can add surprise elements like matcha, durian, and wasabi chocolates.

#4: Small Gadgets

Have you had an especially fruitful year as a company? Investing in gadgets like Kindles, Nintendo Switches, portable laptop stands, noise-calling headphones, or smart charging hubs are trendy and super functional. These kinds of sleek and useful gadgets enhance work and leisure time for your employees.

#5: Small Practical Objects 

Whether you buy travel accessories, reusable water bottles, small kitchen appliances, or electronic gadgets for your employees, they all make great Lunar New Year gifts that add more convenience to their lives.

Whenever you're choosing a gift for your employees, you should bear in mind what their needs and preferences are. This way, they feel personally appreciated during this festive time. For example, getting a milk chocolate selection box for your vegan employees would make them feel like you don't know them. The key here is to balance practicality with personality and cultural relevance to reflect the hopeful spirit of the Lunar New Year. 

Remember: the amount of thought and effort put into these gifts are as important as the gifts themselves!

5 Popular Lunar New Year Gifts for Seniors

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When you're picking out Lunar New Year gifts for the seniors in your life, it's especially important to focus on items that promote comfort, health, and well-being. This reflects respect and care.

Ready for 5 popular gift ideas for seniors?

#1: Hats, Gloves, and Scarves 

Consider high-quality, comfortable hats, gloves, and scarves. For seniors, choosing items that provide warmth and are easy to wear is crucial. Avoid a green hat as it may have negative cultural connotations in some Asian cultures. 

Make sure these items are soft, possibly hypoallergenic, and suitable for any specific health needs the senior might have. No wool for the person with a lanolin allergy!

#2: Holiday Gift Set: 

A thoughtful holiday gift set could include a traditional Korean cinnamon punch (Sujeonggwa) packed in a can, accompanied by a handmade ceramic cup. This not only embraces traditional flavors but also adds a touch of elegance. 

Other traditional Lunar New Year gifts can include sweet oranges or other fruits symbolizing good luck and prosperity, which are healthy and culturally appropriate. Two for one!

#3: Food 

Tonic foods are an excellent gift for seniors, especially when they like to consume food packed with health benefits. Consider ginseng for energy, goji berries for eye health, and dried longan for general wellness. 

These foods can be packaged attractively and include a little information on their health benefits, making the gift both thoughtful and practical.

#4: Craftsmanship: 

Depending on the senior's interests, crafts like paintings, porcelain items, or decorative tea sets can be wonderful gifts. These items serve as beautiful home decorations and can be meaningful if they align with the senior's hobbies or interests. Additionally, if they love to paint themselves, buying them some supplies will make them smile.

#5: Tea Sets 

It's a firm favorite gift for Lunar New Year for a reason. You've got loads of incredible options. You can go old-school with traditional Chinese tea sets, all delicate porcelain and fancy designs, or keep it sleek and simple with a modern set. Each kind has its own vibe – the traditional ones are all about intricate details, while the modern ones are super easy to use and look great. 

Giving a senior in your life a tea set is like saying, "I respect you, and I wish you all the best." It's about the set itself and the peaceful moments they'll have while enjoying their tea. 

These gifts, chosen considering the seniors' preferences and needs, serve practical purposes and convey a deep sense of respect and appreciation for their wisdom and experience.

5 Popular Lunar New Year Gifts for Kids

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That's right, you won't be getting the kids in your life a personalized coffee cup. Instead, when picking out Lunar New Year gifts for kids, it's all about finding fun, educational, and even a bit culturally relevant things to gift.

Here are our favorite gifts for kids:

#1: Red Envelopes

Prepping red envelopes is pretty straightforward. You want to add new, crisp bills – it's part of the tradition. How much? Depends on how close you are, but it can range from a few dollars to more. 

These red envelopes are a big deal in Chinese culture. They're not just gifts; they're like good luck charms, especially for kids. They're given out for all occasions, not just the Lunar New Year.

#2: Candy and Chocolates

Go for a mix of candies and chocolates here. Although this is for little ones, you still want to include flavors like matcha, durian, dark chocolate, and wasabi. These sweet treats are perfect for sharing with kids during the festivities. It's all about bringing joy and fun to their Lunar New Year celebration.

#3: School Supplies

Ask any parent, myself included; kids always need school supplies! Have a look at cool pens, fun notebooks, or even a set of pain brushes.

You don't have to be 100% practical with this; they can be super fun choices to inspire kids to get creative in their studies.

#4: Sound Books

Here at Cali's Books, we know how awesome sound books are for kids. They're interactive and really grab their attention. Look for ones that suit their age and interests. These types of books are great for kids' libraries because they make reading more engaging and fun.

Chinese New Year-themed sound book is an excellent pick for the Lunar New Year. It's a fun way for kids to learn about the traditions and culture.

Pssst, we also have this fantastic list of 15 activities to do with your little ones during holidays!

#5: Small Toys

You can't go wrong with toys. Think about stuff like dolls, remote-control cars, or even chess sets. Be careful with anything too loud to keep parents on your good side.

These toys are great for playtime and can also be a hit during the New Year celebrations, keeping the kids entertained and happy.

5 Things You Should Never Give as a Lunar New Year Gift

When dealing with a culture that may not be your own, it's always important to be aware of cultural traditions. When it comes to Lunar New Year gifting, there are some definite no-nos. A lot of these are based on superstitions or cultural beliefs.

#1: Nothing in Black and White

Black and white are often associated with mourning and funerals in Chinese culture. So, when it comes to gifts and wrapping paper, these colors are best to avoid for Lunar New Year. It's all about keeping the mood upbeat and lucky for the occasion!

Red, on the other hand, is the go-to color. It's seen as super lucky and is all about happiness and good fortune. That's why you see it everywhere in Chinese New Year celebrations and gift-giving.

#2: No Shoes, Please

Shoes might seem like a practical gift, but they're kind of a bad omen. They're seen as a sign of walking away or ending a relationship. Eeek, not exactly the message you want to send during a time of celebration and togetherness.

#3: Avoid Green Hats

In Chinese tradition, wearing a green hat has a very specific and negative meaning – it implies that someone's spouse is unfaithful. So, obviously, giving someone a green hat as a gift is a bad idea. It's loaded with negative connotations and is best avoided.

#4: No Umbrellas as Gifts

Umbrellas might be useful, but as gifts, they're seen as a bit of a bad luck charm. In some cultures, they're thought to symbolize separation or the end of a relationship. Like shoes, they're not something you want to give during a festive and happy time.

#5: Tick, Tock, No Clock

Clocks are another gift you should steer clear of. In many Eastern cultures, giving a clock is like counting down the time to someone's death (oh no!). It's considered very inauspicious and unsuitable for a celebration like the Lunar New Year.

Remembering these cultural sensitivities is crucial. It shows respect for the traditions and beliefs of those celebrating Lunar New Year. It ensures that your gifts bring joy rather than accidentally offending someone.

5 Unspoken Lunar New Year Gift-Giving Etiquette Rules

You're basically an expert on traditional Lunar New Year gifts now, right? You should know a few more unspoken rules before you get ready to celebrate. There's a bit more to it than just picking out something nice.

#1: Select the Right Colors

Go for colors like red, yellow, and gold. These are super lucky colors because they're all about wealth and prosperity. When wrapping the gift or even choosing a gift bag, make sure it's in these colors, too. It's all part of making the gift as happy as possible.

#2: Give Gifts in Right Numbers:

Numbers can be a big deal. For example, the number eight is extra lucky because it sounds like the word for wealth. But stay away from four – it's super unlucky because it sounds like the word for death. So, if you're giving something like a set of cups or chocolates, think about the number you're giving.

#3: Both Hands

Whether you're giving or receiving a gift, always use both hands. It's a sign of respect and appreciation. This rule isn't just for gifts, either. It's the same deal if you're giving money or even exchanging business cards.

#4: Lucky Money Should Be Crisp and New

If you're giving lucky money (in those red envelopes we talked about), make sure the bills are crisp and new. It's a sign of respect and good fortune. You might need to visit the bank to get fresh notes. Avoid old, wrinkled, or torn bills – it's all about showing that you care.

#5: Start with the Oldest or Most Senior

When handing out gifts, start with the oldest or the most senior person there. It's a sign of respect and honor. Remember, for seniors, it's a good idea to pick something that's good for their health. Things like ginseng or tea are popular choices.

These rules might seem a bit complicated at first glance, but they're all about showing respect and good wishes. It's these little details that can make Lunar New Year celebrations even more special and meaningful.

Summary

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Whether you're a Lunar New Year pro or just getting started with these traditions, I hope this guide has been helpful. At Cali's Books, we're all about celebrating the joy and richness of cultural traditions, and the Lunar New Year is no exception. It's a time filled with joy, reflection and a whole lot of fun.

As we step into 2024, the Year of the Dragon, let's embrace the spirit of renewal and hope that comes with the Lunar New Year. There are many ways to make this time memorable, Whether through thoughtful gifts, delicious feasts, or just spending time with loved ones. 

Remember, it's not just about the gifts themselves, but the thought and care put into them. And hey, if you ever get stuck, just think about the joy on someone's face when they receive something that's been chosen with love and respect. That's what it's all about.

From all of us here at Cali's Books, we wish you a prosperous, joyful, and incredibly lucky Lunar New Year. Let's make it a great one!

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Cali's Books, founder, about us, why I love books, children's books

Hi! I'm Cali, Founder of Cali's Books

“I’ve loved books since childhood and wanted to transmit this enthusiasm to my children”

I'm a mom of two young children who trained as an engineer and worked in investment banking and at Disney. A French of Caribbean origin (Martinique to be precise!), I grew up in Paris. Los Angeles is now the place I call home!

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