New Lunar New Year-related emoji have been added as candidates for a post-2017 Unicode update. These include a firecracker, a mooncake, and a red envelope.
Unicode 10, the latest version of the character standard, is scheduled for release in June 2017 and will include other Chinese culture-related emoji, such as a fortune cookie, a takeout box, chopsticks, and dumplings. But the potential inclusion of a Chinese holiday-themed emoji is interesting to note.
Red envelopes are an iconic part of Lunar New Year, traditionally given to friends and family as a symbol of prosperity, luck, and good fortune. In recent years, digital red envelopes have increasingly grown as national phenomenon in China. WeChat, the country’s most popular messaging app, have introduced several interactive ways to send money over the app’s payment solution. In 2015, users were given a specific time to literally shake their phone to try to snag one of some million digital red envelopes WeChat sent out, lottery-style. This produced a national craze that got people trying to shake multiple devices simultaneously in hopes of winning some free cash. Last year, a new WeChat feature allowed users to share a blurry photo and others have to send “lucky money” to unlock the image.
It may all sound gimmicky, but in 2016, more than 8 billion digital red envelopes were exchanged over the platform. That doesn’t include what was shared over China’s microblogging platform, Sino Weibo.
So sure, a red envelope emoji may just be an emoji. But to a culture people who value what the little drawing symbolizes, it may be one of the more important inclusions to the upcoming Unicode releases. Red envelopes also aren’t Lunar New Year-specific — they can be given out on birthdays, weddings, and other milestones.
If approved, the earliest we’d see it implemented would be in 2018 — along with a possible redhead emoji the Unicode Committee discussed at its meeting this week.