Many cultures celebrate the Lunar New Year and for some, a part of this includes the giving of a red envelope. 

In Mandarin these are called Hong Bao, but other languages have different names for them. 

Cantonese Lai see
Vietnam Li xi
Cambodia ang pav or tae ea
Philippines (Chinese Filipino) Ang pao

In China, the envelopes are traditionally given to children and young adults as a gift. The envelopes are red to symbolise good fortune and prosperity for the coming year, and traditionally contain money. 

However, other countries have variations to this tradition. In South Korea, for instance, the envelopes are white. In Japan they may be white or they may be decorated. 

It is not known where or how the tradition began, but it may date back to a Qin-Dynasty (221 - 206 BC) custom where coins were threaded together on red string to ward off sickness. Another story tells how a demon would visit the homes of children on New Years Eve and touch their forehead three times, making the child very poorly. One New Years Eve, two parents gave their child eight coins wrapped in red paper to play with, hoping this would keep the child awake through the night and protect them from the Demon. When the Demon entered the room and tried to touch the child's forehead, bright light came from the envelope and scared the Demon away. The story spread through the village and from them on families wrapped coins in red paper on New Years Eve to protect their child. 

More recently, the custom of giving envelopes has been taken on by other cultures. For instance, Malay Muslims in Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore and Indonesia have taken to giving out green envelopes for Eid al-Fitr and in Singapore and Malaysia, the local population have taken to giving out purple envelopes for Deepavali.

In this activity, try your hand at some simple origami (paper folding) to create your own red envelope inspired by the hongbao.



You will need:

3 pieces of paper in two colours - we have used red and yellow but you can use any colours

Optional - pencils, pens or crayons to decorate

Step 1:

Line your three pieces of paper up, one on top of other, portrait style (shorter ends at the top and bottom). Each piece should be around 1cm from the top and edge of the piece of paper behind it.

Three pieces of paper aligned around 1cm apart on one side and the top.

Step 2:

Fold all three pieces of paper at the same time along the long edge.

Fold along the long edge

Step 3:

Now select all three pieces along the other long edge, and fold them over to meet the other side, essentially folding your paper into thirds.

Fold the other long edge

Step 4:

Undo your previous fold, leaving a crease. Then take the bottom corner and fold it across to meet the long folded edge from step 2. Make sure you press down on your fold to keep it sharp.#

A corner fold is added

Step 5:

Refold your paper along the crease that you created in step 3.

The A4 paper is folded to be long and thin with additional decorative creases.

Step 6:

Turn your craft over so that you are looking at the back. 

The craft is turned over

Step 7:

Take the bottom edge and fold it up. You should be able to see the pattern more clearly. 

Fold the bottom up

Step 8:

Fold the other end over to meet the end of the fold you just created.

The edges are folded to meet

Step 9:

Look at the end that you just folded. You should be able to see a hole. 

The open edge is squeezed so we can see an opening in the paper.

Step 10:

Tuck the short folded end, into the hole you just found. Press down on all the edges to keep the folds sharp.

The short edge is tucked into the opening at the other end to create an envelope

Step 11:

Turn your envelope over and add some decoration. We have drawn a small ox on ours inspired by the Ox in the zodiac. However, you could draw or decorate with anything that inspires you. 

A red and yellow envelope made by folding. A small ox is drawn on the front.

To add your gift, unfold everything and return to step 1. Place your flat item in the centre and redo the folds around it.