On Fridays, I work an afternoon shift from 3-8 pm (Monday – Thursday 10-3). I punched my card and headed to the pharmacy department--I work at Shoppers Drug Mart. There was a shift change for the pharmacists and as one was starting another one was finishing. I made the usual salutations and placed my water jug on the counter. The pharmacist who was leaving took me aside, gave me a red envelope, then gave me a quick hug.
“Put that in your pocket,” she said.
I had no idea what was happening, but said, “Thank you.”
She left quickly while I stood there puzzling at the gesture.
I began serving customers and doing the job, forgetting all about that red envelope.
The evening went by quickly and when I got home and undressed, I felt the red envelope in my pocket. Curiously, I opened it and found a twenty-dollar bill. My son, who had been passing by my bedroom, saw the red envelope.
“Who gave you that?” he asked.
“One of the pharmacists at work,” I replied.
“Yeah, well she’s from Taiwan.”
“Mom, do you know what that is?”
“Mom, tomorrow’s Chinese New Year!”
Oh, gosh, did I feel stupid then. I totally forgot about Chinese New Year, but I still didn’t understand why I got the red envelope. I had never seen it before.
Then, my son, being the walking encyclopedia that he is, decides to inform me of the Year of the Rooster and the red envelope tradition.
Apparently, Chinese people love the color red, which is the symbol of happiness, energy and good luck. When you receive a red envelope, the person is wishing you good luck. The money inside is not as important as the color of the paper. Those who receive a red envelope are wished a safe and peaceful year.
My son told me that you should not open a red envelope in front of the giver and boy, was I glad that I didn’t, as it is improper and in bad taste.
There are rules regarding who to give to and what amount. I am not Chinese, so that does not really matter. However, I thought it all very interesting.
Later that night, I lie in bed thinking about how lucky I truly was to be thought of in that way. This lady is a wonderful being, a great mother, and a very knowledgeable and experienced pharmacist. Everyone asks for her at the pharmacy. She has a great sense of humor and is an organized and meticulous worker. I have learned so much from her in my two years at the pharmacy.
Now, I have a new-found respect. And I am truly blessed to be working with such a beautiful human being.