A red envelope with a dollar in it worked as a party favor for every attendee at the Cupertino Chamber of Commerce Lunar New Year luncheon. Cupertino councilman Gilbert Wong, also honorary chair of the Chamber's Asian American Business Council, explained the meaning of the red envelope.
"The red envelope is called li-shi（利市）in Cantonese and hong-bao（红包） in Mandarin," he said. "Koreans and Vietnamese give out money in red envelopes during Lunar New Year, too. The red envelopes are given to children or unmarried young people as a symbol of good luck."
At the luncheon, however, the red envelopes were meant to showcase a Lunar New Year's custom to everyone.
Another Lunar New Year's custom on display was a couplet pasted on the podium, which can be translated as "The auspicious dragon bids farewell to the past year; the cloud-shrouded snake performs dancing in the new spring."
When Cupertino Mayor Orrin Mahoney took the podium, he said "Happy New Year" in Chinese (新年快樂），and won a thunderous applause.
The Year of the Snake began Feb 10 this year. Friday's luncheon was still timely because Chinese New Year's celebration customarily lasts 15 days.
To learn more about Lunar New Year's customs, click here for the author's ebook.