This is the perfect time to get caught red-handed.

Flushing Town Hall will unveil its Red Envelope Show during a special reception on Saturday, Jan. 5, from 5 to 7 p.m. The extensive art exposition will then be on display until Sunday, Jan. 27.

Featuring pieces by professional visual artists in the gallery, the homage honors the red celebration envelopes distributed during Lunar New Year. It also celebrates the Year of the Pig and the 40th anniversary of the nonprofit venue’s steward, the Flushing Council on Culture and the Arts.

Bert Chau from the Brooklyn art gallery Grumpy Bert curated the show. He solicited only vertical, unsealed work that can be hung on walls and he suggested that participants include a “mystery” gift that only the buyers will see. Plus, amateur pieces by community and school groups will be on exhibit throughout Flushing Town Hall, which is located at 137-35 Northern Blvd.

The Red Envelope Show will be open to the public on weekends from noon to 5 p.m. and on weekdays by appointment. The closing party is set for Sunday, Jan. 27, from 3 to 5 p.m.

Entry is free with a $5 suggested donation, and all the pieces are for sale with 25 percent of proceeds going to the host’s visual arts programming.

In a related event, Tina Seligman, a mixed-media artist who has been “in residence” at Flushing Town Hall since 2000, will lead a drop-in Red Envelope Show Workshop on Sunday, Jan. 13, from 1 to 3 p.m. Attendance is free with materials provided.

Also known as a “red packet” or a “good luck envelope,” these Lunar New Year gifts are often decorated with lucky symbols or positive messages and stuffed with money. The idea is to transmit good energy, and the color represents blessing and prosperity in Chinese culture. (Wedding and birthday gifts are given in these packets, too.)

The tradition dates back to the Han Dynasty that ruled China from 206 B.C. to 220 A.D., although its origin is disputed. According to one legend, a monster would come out of a forest lair every year to eat villagers. Over time, residents learned that they could convince the ogre to spare them by offering money.

As per another tale, a demon would pat children on their heads while they slept. One night, the villain was scared away by a coin that flashed next to a child’s pillow. The following morning, the youngster’s parents wrapped the coin in red paper to show it around the neighborhood.

One more school of thought contends that the tradition developed from senior citizens who used to thread coins with red strings to ward off evil spirits.

The practice is now common throughout Asia. It has also advanced with technology. Some Chinese mobile apps offer users the chance to make payments with a virtual red envelope on the screen.

Images: Flushing Town Hall


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