We’re only a few days away from Tết. The grand floral and statue displays on streets, colorful fireworks, lion dances, culinary feasts, and family reunions — the Lunar New Year celebration isn’t just the biggest festivity in Vietnam; it’s the most joyful time of the year, too.
The holiday comes with many centuries-old traditions and customs still largely practiced and embraced amidst modern influences. From cleaning the entire house to make way for new beginnings to serving bánh chưng and buying peach blossoms, Vietnamese take this time of the year to go back to their roots and honor a culture carefully preserved through generations.
The giving and receiving lì xì, or lucky money, is one of the most meaningful parts of the celebration. The tradition, with its interesting origin, gets everyone — especially little kids — excited during this time of the year. Giving lì xì means wishing the person good fortune, letting receivers know that you hope for good things to happen to them.
There are no rules on how much “lucky money” should be. It’s usually based on the relationship and age gap between the giver and receiver, and on one’s financial status. Some give their parents VND 5 million, while young children receive VND 50,000 — usually, that’s more than enough.
However, even this beautiful tradition carries social expectations. Many Vietnamese, especially those who have just started working or are still struggling to find stable jobs, feel the growing pressure of putting big amounts of money into the red envelopes. Apparently, handing out a VND 20,000 bill is now met with disappointment.
“Some don’t even dare to hide what they feel when receiving a small amount of money in their envelopes,” a young Vietnamese worker commented. “Kids judge you by how much lucky money you give them. They demand more because they usually compare it with their friends. Who gets more or who gets less — it’s an issue for them.”
Lì xì is a symbol of respect, gratitude, and giving back. Or at least, that’s what it used to mean. With some people making this tradition a way to judge others or benefit financially, maybe we’re now losing its essence.
Has giving out lì xì become a burdensome responsibility to some Vietnamese? Vietcetera asked young Vietnamese workers about their perspectives on the pressure brought by this tradition.
“I’m working as a health insurance agent, so I won’t get a Tet bonus from my company. This worries me a lot because I have a lot of things I need money for. To be specific, giving out lì xì to elders and younger members of the family will be very hard for me this year. Without the Tet bonus, I can’t cover these added expenses. But it’s a tradition I cannot ignore.”
– Nga Truong
Giving out lì xì depends on the financial status of a person or the family. Some parents give their children between VND 500,000 and 2 million, and between VND 50,000 and 100,000 to other children like nieces and nephews. For children who already have jobs, they give their parents lucky money.
I feel the pressure of giving lì xì, to be honest. I think hard about the amount to put inside the envelopes because kids nowadays care a lot about how much money you give them. They’ve forgotten about the real meaning of “lucky money.”
– Khanh Tran
I usually give out lucky money to children when I visit my relatives during Tet. I only give out a few, and usually just under VND 50,000 each. Aside from relatives, I give some monetary gifts to friends and former classmates since I only see them once a year.
This doesn’t put me under much pressure, though, because we only do this during Tet. And lucky money is about wishing luck at the beginning of the year. I also get lucky money from my relatives, so I think this tradition is interesting.
– Quang Cường
I only gave lì xì to my younger brother for the past two years. Because I wasn’t earning much money yet, I gave him around VND 50,000 to 100,000. This year, I’m proud to say that I’d be able to give my parents lì xì, too. It’s a sign of my success and also to show my parents that I’ve been working hard. I don’t have many relatives in Saigon, so I don’t need to spend more.
Although I only give lucky money to my brother and my parents, I feel the pressure growing yearly. I had some not-so-good experiences with a few of my relatives. I once visited them, and all they said was, “Hey, now that you’re a grown-up, give your nephew some lì xì.” Although it was meant as a joke, it made me uncomfortable. Lì xì means wishing others good luck, not about gaining something financially.
For me, I give around ten lì xì to relatives and friends. I budget around VND 1 to 1.5 million and divide the money equally. I used to find it fun and heartwarming.
However, the younger generation has become increasingly disrespectful of the tradition and more focused on the money they receive. For example, they’d hesitate to accept the envelope if I give only VND 10,000 for lì xì. They always want more. I think many have forgotten the real meaning of lì xì.
– Hoàng Văn
Every year, I give around eight lucky money — to my parents, grandmother, siblings, and younger children. When I have extra money, I also distribute some lì xì to my best friends. For my parents, the amount is above VND 500,000; for others, it’s usually under VND 200,000. I don’t think too much about the money I give out because it’s just like a small gift for my loved ones. But there are times when friends ask for lucky money, too, which makes me a bit uneasy.
– Bội Ân
I only used to give lucky money to my parents and sister. But for this Tet, I’m also giving lì xì to my nephew. I’m not rich, but seeing them so happy with the lucky money makes me happy, too. I’m also fortunate that I get to receive lì xì from my parents as well.
– Nhật Hoàng
I usually give lì xì to my mom and the little children in the family. Of course, my mom gets more, while the little children get VND 200,000 each. It does add to the pressure because children used to accept just VND 100,000. Now all they look forward to during Tet is the lucky money.
– Lan Anh