Last Updated on 2023-01-11 , 2:10 pm
With the lunar new year just around the corner, I’m sure a lot of you are shopping for new year goods and clothes at the moment!
After all, what kind of new year would it be without Bak Kwa and colourful soft drinks, right? (stereotyping LNY coz I can)
Anyway, one of the highlights of the lunar new year has got to be the Ang Pao – the slightly larger-than-palm red packet all children love and all adults hate.
So, in an attempt to help boost (?) the festive mood, here are 10 facts about Ang Pao you probably didn’t know about.
Prefer to watch it instead? Here, we’ve prepared a video for you (and also, if you subscribe to our YouTube channel, we’ll send you an ang pao with used tissue paper inside):
Still here and prefer to read instead of watch? Okay, moving on then…
Why Bird Paradise Suddenly Became Singapore’s Yishun:
1) 压祟钱 （Ya Sui Qian) VS 压岁钱 （Ya Sui Qian)
Traditionally, Ang Paos are also known as Ya Sui Qian if it’s given to you by an elder. If we were to translate the term word for word, it would literally mean “Money for suppressing Sui”.
So what is this “Sui”? According to a Chinese legend, Sui is a demon with a black body and white hands. This particular demon would target young kids and would only appear the night before Lunar New Year.
Hence, in order to protect their children, adults will stay awake the night before. This is a little different from some local families where the kids are the ones staying awake at night!
Anyway, according to the story, a family with the surname of Guan decided to stay awake at night to look after their child. Before falling asleep, the child was playing with 8 copper coins and a piece of red paper.
When Sui arrived later at night to harm to harm the child, the 8 coins started emitting a bright light, scaring away the demon.
The Guan family then decided to share the method with everyone, helping them protect their children.
Now, let’s talk about 压岁钱 (Ya Sui Qian)
If you’re not well versed in the ways of deciphering Chinese characters, you’re probably wondering why I’m writing about the same thing again.
The “Sui” written here is actually not the same “Sui” as before. The “Sui” here refers to age. Hence, the term would literally mean “money for suppressing age”. It’s money given to parents by their children in hopes that their parents would not age and would live longer.
2) Why even numbers?
If you have been paying attention to the money inside your Ang Paos, you would realize that the money inside usually ends with an even digit. ($8, $10, $20 etc) Well, if you think about it, you don’t see people giving out $11 Ang Paos right?
Convenience aside, such practices are also deeply rooted in Chinese beliefs.
Most people think that Ang Paos should be given in even numbers due the general association of even numbers with happiness and prosperity (Eg: 成双成对，双喜临门)
That aside, most of you should know that Ang Paos are also given during weddings. It is believed that if you were to give the couple Ang Paos in even number, it’ll be easier for them to split the money afterwards.
To be honest though, I’m fairly certain that all the Ang Pao money will go towards paying for the pointlessly extravagant wedding ceremonies nowadays. Just saying.
3) Giving Ang Paos to singles
Truth be told, there isn’t actually a correct answer to this question. It really depends on your family.
Technically, as long as you are still single, you can still receive Ang Paos. However, most of the time we try not to give Ang Paos to those who are old and single because we don’t want to embarrass them in front of others!
In some families, you are required to give Ang Paos to singles younger than you once you’re married, including your own cousins and siblings. Then there are those families who only give Ang Paos to singles of a younger generation (Eg: Nephew and niece).
Really, it’s mainly about the guidelines established by the people through long social practice.
4) Taboos when receiving Ang Paos
There’s really isn’t much in the way of Ang Pao taboos. I mean, Ang Paos are something that are given out during a joyous occasion after all.
Aside from not opening your Ang Paos in front of others(because they don’t want you to reveal the amount they give), do make sure to receive your Ang Paos with both hands.
After receiving your Ang Pao, don’t toss it at one side just because you have no pockets. Just give it to your parents or siblings; I’m pretty sure one of them has a bag or pockets!
5) Do newlyweds need to give Ang Paos?
“A happy day for the couple but a sad day for all our wallets!” exclaimed my fellow colleague after receiving the third red bomb since the year started.
For starters, I’m fairly certain the couple is actually more tired than happy. You would probably agree with me if you have organized a wedding banquet before.
Once again, there is no hard and fast rule for this. If we were to consider the situation of the diasporic culture of the Chinese all over the world, it isn’t hard to realize that not everyone will follow the same set of rules.
Just do a quick Google search and you will see what I’m talking about.
To some families, it’s not a must to give Ang Paos during your first year of marriage. However, you’ll also read that many newlyweds are still giving Ang Paos anyway. Take it with a pinch of salt though, you know how the internet is!
Truth be told, just give the Ang Paos lah! You don’t want to spend the Lunar New Year arguing with your relatives right?
Before you begin whining- mind you, some cultures (including our neighbour, Malaysia) require newlyweds to give two Ang Paos! Now, aren’t you glad you’re giving just now?
6) Start-work-Ang-Pao （开工红包）
I know lots of people are looking forward to this Ang Pao. My friend’s company actually gave each of them $88 dollars last year! That’s a lot considering there are more than 50 employees in the company he’s working at!
However, another friend of mine only received $2 for her Ang Pao. Well, to begin with, the Ang Paos given on the first day of work is just a symbolism. It’s mainly given to serve as a form of motivation for the staff and also to bring good luck to the company and staff as well!
So, don’t feel bad if your boss gives you a $2 Ang Pao! It’s the thoughts that count!
Some bosses also like to prepare a specific number of Ang Paos. In other words, the early birds that come back to work the day after CNY will receive Ang Paos.
Kind of a dick move, if you ask me. (Just give everyone an equal amount lah)
7) Digital Ang Paos
Gone were the days where you can avoid giving Ang Paos as long as you are not around for Lunar New Year. Nowadays, with services like WeChat, you can virtually (no pun intended) send Ang Paos to your relatives even if you’re a thousand miles apart!
…Wow seriously, f**k you, digital Ang Paos (now you know how old the writer is #justsaying).
The trend started in 2014 when WeChat organised an Ang Pao giveaway on national television. It is estimated that over 32 billion Ang Paos were sent. The number skyrocketed to 100 billion in 2017.
It’s pretty amazing, considering the world’s population is only 7.6 billion!
8) Ang Paos nowadays aren’t “Ang” anymore
It doesn’t take a genius to notice that Ang Paos aren’t really “Ang”(red) anymore. As long as it’s brightly coloured(like pink or yellow), you’ll see it on Ang Paos nowadays.
There are even people collecting Ang Paos nowadays! There’s even a group called “Ang Pao Collectors” on Carousell with over 4,000 members!
9) Another name for Ang Paos
There are in fact many ways you can refer to your Ang Paos. “Lei Si” or “利是”, though not very common in Singapore, is another name for Ang Paos. This name is more commonly used by Cantonese speaking families.
However, most of my Cantonese friends in Singapore (and Malaysia) generally refer to Ang Paos as “Hong Bau” and not “Lei Si”. Isn’t the evolution of language through time and space an interesting thing?
The term “Lei Si” or “利事”, is more commonly used by companies and bosses as it sounds like “for things to go smoothly/successfully”, and mostly in Hong Kong.
No matter the name, Ang Paos are still Ang Paos, right? (Money’s still money!)
10) River Hong Bao has nothing to do with Ang Paos
Heads up, our tourist friends! The event known as River Hong Bao in Singapore is not a river filled to the brim with Ang Paos!
So, yeah. Sorry to disappoint you, but you won’t be able to earn some quick cash by scooping Ang Paos out of a river! Instead, kick back and relax while you immerse yourself in the festive CNY mood Singapore has to offer!
So, now that you know more about Ang Paos, do you feel somehow…smarter?
And if you’ve got nothing to talk about during a visit, save this article (or the video) and we’ve just saved your life #justsaying
Featured Image: ThamKC / Shutterstock.com
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