By Lim Xiao Hui Pauline, ST701 Editorial Team on January 14, 2013
PHOTO: Chinese New Year angpows – how much is enough, exactly?
STClassifieds did its research and offers food for thoughts on what the current red packet market rates are – for those who are obliged to contribute to the economy.
Lunar New Year will soon be upon us again. And with almost three out of every four Singaporeans being part of the Chinese heritage, it’s not surprising that Chinese New Year is viewed as one of the country’s most significant event of the entire year.
Chinese New Year is all about reunion dinners, dressing for the occasion and savouring (enjoy food slowly) all the yummy (but also fattening) goodies, and - not forgetting - house visits. This is an opportune time for kids and teens to go around greeting married folks with a resounding “Gong Xi Fa Cai”, followed by a subtler “Hong Bao Na Lai” (give us a red packet)!
The tradition of giving red packets is carried out by married individuals and elders as a symbol of bestowing blessings to juniors and singletons. In the olden days, the Chinese deemed those who are married to have come of age, hence the “privilege” to distribute angpows to those who are still single or young.
One of the biggest headaches, perhaps, might be figuring how much money to put into an angpow, especially for first-timers. How much is enough without being labelled as “ngiau” or stingy, even as we understand that it is often the thought that should count instead?
We attempt to put together a guide so that you neither have to break your bank account and budget, nor relationships with loved ones:
1. “$4 angpows? What $4?!” – It is said in forums that the market rate now has gone up and if you’re deciding to give $4 angpows this year, be prepared to be labelled as “the scrooge” (a person who is stingy with money). Try at least $8 as a general guideline.
2. Make the ranks - Rank the importance of people whom you are giving red packets to. You can’t be possibly giving a large sum to your friends while handing out $4 angpows to your nieces and nephews.
-- Parents - $100 each
-- Sibling - $48
-- Cousins - $38 each
-- Nieces/Nephews - $12
Feel free and be flexible to vary and increase the quantum for some.
3. Strategise – So $8 was the recommended market rate for your friends’ kids. For relatives, you may have to give a little bit more such as $10-$20, depending on how close you are. If you are very attached to a niece/nephew and can afford it, there’s no stopping you from giving $50-$100, if you can afford it. It also depends on his or her financial condition. If you feel that a poor cousin (no pun intended) could do with a bit more moolah than a well-to-do one, then do the right thing. If you really have no money, just hibernate at home.
Here are some other foods for thoughts:
1. Apportion (divide up and share out) your salary for the occasion – It usually depends on how generous you are and your current needs. A good estimate would be about a quarter to half a month's wages.
2. Pack about 20 ‘extra’ angpows in denominators of $8 or $10 for contingency cases such as surprise visitors or even for your unmarried friends!
3. Use new notes to pack into angpows and also avoid giving coins - Dollar notes which you’re planning to be used in angpows should be fresh bank notes, as it symbolises the new wealth and a fresh beginning in the New Year. The Cantonese, in particular, believe that handing out used notes signifies that the receiver is unimportant and that he or she would be forgotten. Avoid putting coins in angpows too, because coins are commonly seen as meagre (lacking in quantity) sums of money.
4. Do not give amounts in an odd number – It is preferred to give out angpows enclosed with amounts in an even number as a sign of wholesomeness (odd numbers are usually associated with funeral funds). A point to note, even numbers stated here are not applicable in the mathematical sense. For example, 30 is considered as an odd number while 20 is even. "8", sounding similar to 'fortune' is considered to be an auspicious amount. The number "4", sounding similar to 'death' is to be avoided, too.
On another note, the amount of money you put in your angpows doesn’t matter really, as it’s the thought that counts. True family and friends are more concerned with getting together to celebrate the lunar new year than to judge how much you put in your angpows. As long as you bestow each angpow with sincerity and an open mind and heart, the monetary part is just a bonus.
2015: Here’s wishing you a Good (Goat) New Year ahead!
From Grace OldGit, Top commenter on 22 January 2013 at 22:48
Too many people put emphasis on the cash value instead of seeing it as it is. There are no clear literary sources from which to trace the origin of the red envelope tradition.
In China, during the Qin Dynasty, the elderly would thread coins with a red string. The money was called yāsuì qián (压祟钱) meaning "money warding off evil spirits", and was believed to protect the elderly from sickness and death.
The yāsuì qián was replaced by red envelopes when printing presses became more common and is now found written using the homophone (words having the same pronunciation but different meanings) for suì that means 'old age' instead of 'evil spirits' (压岁钱).
Red envelopes are also referred to as yāsuì qián.
From Irene Ong (Cook 2) at Singapore Marriott Hotel on 15 March 2013 at 17:55
If you are rich enough you can give more then 12 dollars, because the more you can give, the better is your generosity and social (and maybe financial) well-being. For the poor even a 2 dollar is a problem. So don't just any how set the rate or else nobody in the new generation will want to get married.
Let us strife to be Socially, Spritually, Physically and Intellectually strong, from this year onwards!