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Nike's Lunar New Year ad highlights exhausting politeness over red envelope tradition

The most polite fight.
A young girl holds a red envelope given to her by her aunt in Nike's Lunar New Year ad.
A young girl holds a red envelope given to her by her aunt in Nike's Lunar New Year ad.NIKE

A Nike Lunar New Year ad has amused many viewers with its take on an age-old tradition.

The ad, which was released just before the Year of The Rat kicks off on Saturday, features the Chinese custom of giving out money-filled red envelopes, which are typically distributed by family elders. While it’s respectful for kids to initially decline the packet, the young girl in the spot takes it to the extreme when her equally-stubborn aunt attempts to give her the New Year’s gift.

The result is a cat-and-mouse chase on foot, spanning years, across rooftops and alongside rivers.

Chinese viewers found the ad particularly amusing because of the uncomfortably aggressive, yet also hilarious politeness and humility displayed between the pair. While the “polite fight,” in the spot involves the New Year's tradition, the contentious back-and-forth is well-known to be prompted by the check at the end of a meal out. “Fresh Off The Boat” even documented the hilarious phenomenon in an episode.

The custom of the red envelope itself, known in Mandarin as “hongbao,” stems from an old legend revolving around a demon named “Sui.” According to one version of the tale, Sui would attack children on New Year’s Eve. To ward off the demon, parents would thread coins -- “ya sui qian,” which translates to “suppressing Sui money” -- and place them under kids’ pillows. Though children are the main recipients of the money, elders also get envelopes from youth, who dole them out in gratitude and filial piety.