Culture

At last, iPhone is getting a red envelope and mooncake emoji

Oct 05, 2018

When Lunar New Year rolls around next February, Chinese Apple users will have another reason to celebrate.

A red envelope and firecracker are part of more than 70 new emoji to be included in the next iOS update, expected to arrive in the coming weeks.

They’ve already been available on Twitter and in the latest version of Android after the Unicode Consortium, which manages the emoji library, approved them earlier this year.

Real red envelopes (left) and the iOS red envelope emoji with the Chinese character “fu”, meaning good fortune.
Real red envelopes (left) and the iOS red envelope emoji with the Chinese character “fu”, meaning good fortune. / Photo: Abacus

Red envelopes are an essential part of Chinese culture. Known as hongbao 紅包 in Mandarin and lai see 利是 in Cantonese, they are filled with cash and given as gifts at Lunar New Year celebrations, weddings, births and other happy occasions.

In the age of smartphones, this tradition has gone through a 21st-century makeover. More Chinese people are sending virtual red envelopes via chat and payment apps, and Apple’s new emoji will no doubt go over well with this crowd.

Besides the red envelope, there’s another Chinese holiday-themed emoji coming to the iPhone: a mooncake.

Real mooncakes (left) and the iOS mooncake emoji.
Real mooncakes (left) and the iOS mooncake emoji. / Photo: Abacus

These calorie-packed pastries filled with lotus seed paste and a whole egg yolk are served during the Mid-Autumn Festival.

The holiday, celebrated on the 15th day of the eighth month in the lunar calendar (usually around September or October) to toast the fall harvest, is now a time for Chinese families to gather for a big feast and moongaze.

The red envelope and mooncake aren’t the first emoji related to Asian holidays. Existing ones include the fish-shaped flags 🎏 flown on Children’s Day in Japan (May 5) and the pair of Japanese imperial dolls 🎎 that are displayed in honor of Hinamatsuri, or Girls’ Day (March 3).

For a look at all 76 new iOS emoji (including an abacus), Emojipedia’s Jeremy Burge has the full list.

Another addition to the emoji collection: something Emojipedia has identified as a “leafy green,” but we’ll just call it bok choy 🤷

Adapted from an original article first published in Abacus.