Chinese Lunar New Year Illustrates Rise of Virtual Hong Bao

February 15, 2018, 5:38 PM UTC

China’s Lunar Near Year is many things to that country’s population. But this year, more than others, it will rely heavily on technology for delivering the traditional red packets known as Hong Bao that typically contain gifts of money.

This year, 80% of people living on mainland China will give digital red packets, many of which include digital currency that can be used as cash, market research firm Lightspeed Research said in a study reported on by the South China Morning Post. That’s more than the 69% of people who said that they would send physical red packets to friends and family.

The Chinese Lunar New Year is typically when the most red packets are given, although they can also be given for other special occasions like birthdays. Red, in China, is considered a symbol of well-wishes and good luck.

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The rise of digital Hong Bao has been nothing short of astounding. According to Tencent, a company that has offered “virtual red envelopes” for the last few years, users sent 3 billion digital red packets through its services in 2015. That jumped to 32.1 billion in 2016 and 46 billion in 2017, according to Bloomberg, which earlier reported on the data. Other prominent Chinese companies, including Alibaba, also allow Chinese consumers to send digital red packets to others.

While the companies didn’t share forecasts for 2018 gift-giving, it’s expected that the increasingly digital-first practice will grow this year and into the future.

The Chinese New Year, which marks the year of the dog, is on Friday.

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