It’s that time of year! Now that the spring-cleaning is out of the way and you’ve bought every Chinese New Year goodie you can lay your hands on, you can’t wait for the reunion dinner and to see junior all decked out in their gorgeous new garb.
Of course, as married adults, you’ll also have to prepare a stash of ang pows ― those auspicious red packets that hold various amounts of cash to present to kids.
The red colour of the ang pows symbolises good luck and happiness in the coming year, as well as blessings on the receiver.
As for the amount of money to put inside the ang pow… Well, as much as we’d like to say that it’s the thought that counts, the reality is that giving an inappropriate amount can hurt and offend both parties.
Even fairly large amounts that contain an odd digit, like the 3 in $30, are considered inauspicious, and reserved for events like funerals.
To simplify things for you, check out these general rules:
* Don’t give odd numbers Odd amounts like $5 or $7 are generally considered inauspicious, while even numbers show that you’re in good “shape” for the new year. Even fairly large amounts that contain an odd digit, like the 3 in $30, are considered inauspicious, and reserved for events like funerals. You’re better off going with a number like $28.
* Stay away from the number 4 The number, in Chinese, sounds like the word “die”, which is bad luck. Since many Chinese avoid this number ― for instance, in terms of their unit number of their house, or their car licence plate number ― so, it’s no surprise that 4 is not a “good” amount to put in an ang pow.
* Use new notes, if possible Crisp new notes symbolise a new beginning and a new year.
* Don’t use out-of-date ang pows You know, those packets depicting a different zodiac animal from the New Year you’re celebrating. For instance, if it’s the Year of the Dog, don’t give a red packet with the image of a rabbit, just because you think it’s cute! Also, there are some red packets with the Chinese word xi (囍) or the Chiniese characters for double happiness on them ― these red packets are reserved for weddings.
The amounts in your ang pows should also vary, depending on who the receiver is. Unsure just how much to pack? This handy guide should give you an idea.
Parents and parents in-law
Amount: $88 and above
There’s no cap to this category, since you should be giving them a substantial amount as a sign of respect and a token of appreciation to thank them for raising you. Pssst, up the amount if they help look after your kids, too!
Your own children
Amount: $20 and above
The amount that you give your kids will depend on how old they are and whether they will be keeping the money after that. Also, note that the amount that you give can cultivate a certain attitude (healthy or unhealthy!) towards money. If your kids are still young (preschoolers and under), a token amount will suffice ― they will be happy to add it to their coin box. For older kids, you can advise them to use the money wisely ― spend a little, give some to a worthy cause, and save the rest.
Note that the amount that you give can cultivate a certain attitude (healthy or unhealthy!) towards money.
Amount: $20 to $100
These are probably the family members closest to you, so you’ll want to give them a decent amount to thank them for their companionship. You may vary the amount, depending on their age, and whether they’re working. Of course, there may be some awkwardness if you’ve got an older unmarried sibling, so a smaller token may be given “just for luck”.
Cousins, nephews and nieces
Amount: $8 to $20
You may see these kids or unmarried adults once a year, or as often as weekly. Hence, the amount that you give will depend on how close you are to them. Says one mum Chan Hoon Ying, “I generally give all my nieces and nephews $10, but since my sister helps to look after my son when I’m at work, I give her kids $20 each.”
Amount: $2 to $8 (avoid $4)
These could be the acquaintances you meet while visiting, the domestic helpers in your relative’s homes, your child’s kindergarten classmates, or even your neighbour’s kids. Giving an ang pow is a sign of blessings for the New Year, and is a pleasant gesture to make during the festivities. Of course, the amount depends on your financial situation, so don’t feel obligated to give a large amount just because someone else is doing so!
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