The number of digital “red envelopes” with gift money sent and received via the WeChat messaging platform reached 8.08 billion on Jan. 7, the lunar new year eve, which is eight times that of last year.

Internet company Tencent on Monday reported record user participation in sending and receiving gift money on the eve of Spring Festival via its messaging platform.

A total of 409,000 “red envelopes” were sent and received each second during peak hours, Tencent said.

The record user participation for gift money giving, a long Spring Festival tradition, underpins the growing number of mobile phone users in China and their increasing willingness to use third-party payment and other Internet financing services, analysts said.

This year Alibaba’s Alipay decided to give away 200 million yuan to the participants if they were successful in its lucky money game.

The game involved asking Alipay app users to get more people to download and register on the app. If a user recruited 10 people, then he/she would earn three special cards at random. At the end, users needed to collect five special cards to be eligible for the company’s giveaway. However, there was another catch. You could end up with repeat cards, and therefore, you needed to continue recruiting people till you got the five different lucky cards.

Finally, on New Year’s Eve, the company promised to provide the red envelopes to the successful users.

Likewise, other companies also offered opportunities for users to earn red-envelopes, with some fixing special times for the giveaways. What that meant was that people needed to be clued in constantly to avoid missing out.

“The popularity and the craziness of the virtual red envelopes are just adding more activities during the Spring Festival,” Zhong Min, Manager of Century Mart told CCTVNEWS.

However, while technology is changing the nature of the traditional red envelopes, from texture, color to pattern and design, it is also ensuring that the traditional value of the hongbaos remains intact.

“I’ve talked with some customers and franchisers; their opinions on the red envelopes are the same as mine. They said it represents the tradition that has been passed on for many generations. It is irreplaceable,” added Zhong Min.

Story compiled with information from Xinhua and CCTV News.