Sam and the Lucky Money

Gong Hey Fat Choy!  Chinese New Year is here!  During Chinese New Year it is custom for parents and grandparents to give lai see to children in their families.  Lai see. . . also known as lucky envelopes or lucky money. . . are small, red envelopes that contain a sum of money.  People give lai see to others to wish them good luck and prosperity through out the upcoming year.

Sam and the Lucky Money

Sam and the Lucky Money by Karen Chinn

Sam and the Lucky Money (affiliate link to Amazon) by Karen Chinn is an excellent book to read with school age children.  It is about a boy named Sam who receives several lai see envelopes for Chinese New Year.  He excited about receiving lai see this year because he is finally old enough to spend the money by himself.  But when he tries to spend his lai see money, Sam discovers he doesn't have enough to buy the things that he wants.  He then feels disappointed and a bit angry.

Sam and the Lucky Money

There is an important scene in the story in which Sam goes shopping in Chinatown with his mother.  This is when Sam realizes he doesn't have enough money to buy what what he wants.  He gets upset, starts kicking at some paper laying on the ground, and accidentally kicks a homeless person.  Oops!  

Sam looks at the homeless person and sees that he is cold, his clothes are dirty and that he has no socks.  He is unsettled by this.  His mother on the other hand gives the homeless man a quarter.  Sam sees how thankful and appreciative for the quarter the homeless man is and decides to give him his lai see money.  Sam's lai see money wasn't enough to buy Sam what he wanted, but it is enough to buy the homeless man what he needs. . . a new pair of socks!

Talk About It

After reading Sam and the Lucky Money with your students, take some time to reflect on Sam's actions.  Were they surprised when Sam gave the homeless man his lai see?  What would they have done in that situation?  Then ask the students to recall a time in which they had a chance to help someone or a time in which they were the ones who needed help.  What were their feelings like?

Make a Simple Lai See Envelope

This is a perfect time for some reflective writing and a little bit of arts-and-crafts.  Have your students make some lai see envelopes of their own.
  1. Each student will need one piece of red construction paper, glue, crayons, markers, colored pencils, etc.
  2. Fold the construction paper in half and glue two of the sides closed to make an envelope.
  3. Color and decorate the outside of the envelopes.  Use lots of red and gold since they are the colors of prosperity!
  4. Give the students some play money to put into their lai see envelopes.  It is common practice to give single bills only and in denominations of $10, $20, $50, $100, etc.

Reader Response Writing

Now that the students have read Sam and the Lucky Money, talked about their personal feelings and experiences, and made cute lai see envelopes, send them back to their desks to do some reflective writing.  When done, fold the students' papers and add them to their lai see envelopes.  The lai see envelopes and writings can be hung on a bulletin board or bundled together to make a class book.

In the photo above, you can see Celia's story in which she writes about a time when she and her mother went to the store and had a chance to help some people out.  There was a couple in front of them at the cashier counter who was 40 cents short on their purchase.  The couple were upset and rummaging through their bags to figure out which item they could do without.  Celia saw what was going on and gave them the 40 cents they needed.  The couple were so excited and thankful. . . they gave her fist bumps and even told her God bless.  

Do you have a favorite book or activity that you like to use with your students during Chinese New Year?  If so, tell us about it in the comment below.  We love reading about what teachers do in their classrooms!


  1. Love this activity. Although I haven't read the book and it may take sometime before I can order or find it, I think I'll just do the activity with my children to help them learn about Thankfulness and Gratitude.

    1. Hi Aysh! You can find Sam and the Lucky Money on Amazon. The link is: It is such a good book and I think you will really enjoy it!