More than 40 per cent of Beijingers responding to a survey handed out more than 1,000 yuan (HK$1,270) in lai see money, according to The Beijing News on Monday.
The newspaper polled 102 city residents and found that a quarter had given more than 500 yuan in a single red packet.
One resident surnamed Zhang told The Beijing News the economic burden of lai see was almost too much.
Last year, Zhang gave 600 yuan to each of her four nieces and nephews - 100 yuan more than the year before and a month’s wages in total.
But she felt ashamed when her brothers gave her son 1,288 yuan and 988 yuan respectively and her sister gave 888 yuan. “I felt like I had lost all face,” Zhang said.
“When we were young, red packets had 50 yuan or 100 yuan, already an astronomical figure,” she said.
This year, Zhang gave 888 yuan.
Eighteen-year-old Li Cheng’s thickest red packet contained 3,000 yuan from a parent’s friend.
His parents, who work at Jiangsu government, explained that the friend was a businessman and gave such a large amount because he wanted a favour.
Out of caution, they gave his child a red packet worth the same amount in return.
Li said the exchange of red packets was like a game of tug-of-war. His parents said subordinates would give red packets worth similar amounts, but when a larger amount came along, they had to “return the favour” in the spirit of the New Year.
Li’s parents let him keep the 3,000 yuan, but he understood the money effectively came from their own pockets.
Lai see packets have also spread to WeChat, with users exchanging red packet icons which convert into cash transferred into their bank accounts.
A screenshot of the account of a WeChat user with the online name ‘Hua Gu Er’ shows 20 red lai see packets groups in a row, after she found and joined the so-called “red packet groups” on the eve of the Lunar New Year. Some had been created by friends and others by companies.
“I have [red packets] from 1 yuan to several yuan. The most is 11 yuan,” she said.
She has received 212 yuan in total.
‘Hua Gu Er’ said the red packet groups were a marketing tool, but users started chatting after the packets were handed out and she had made many new friends. “This is more fun than fighting over red packets,” she said.
Another user surnamed Wu received 700 yuan from several work groups and helped his girlfriend procure 800 yuan.