Misconceptions About CNY Ang Baos You Should Know Now Before CNY


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Demystifying Ang Baos: Unraveling Traditions and Clarifying Misconceptions During Chinese New Year

It’s that time of year again, when supermarkets and retail stores play nothing but “gongxi gongxi gongxi ni” for countless hours straight, and parents are stressing out over procuring S$2 notes and counting how many nieces and nephews to give ang baos to. 

Interestingly, my newlywed friends are also faced with this issue. On top of their pretty hefty expenses on their wedding, honeymoon and BTO, it is becoming quite a bit of a monetary concern on their end. 

Little do they know that it is actually a common misconception that newlyweds are required to give ang baos to the little ankle-biters in their family. Shocking, right?

What other misconceptions surrounding these red packets are there? Strap in and find out!

There are Actually More than One Kind of Ang Baos!

Though all of the Chinese New Year money comes in unassuming red envelopes, there are in fact several kinds of ang baos one can receive over the holidays!

First and the most common one: we have the 压岁钱 (ya-sui-qian). 

This is the ang bao bestowed to children by their parents, grandparents and married relatives (that you only meet once a year and never know the right way to call them in Chinese so you just use that all-encompassing “Uncle” and “Aunty”).

Legends say that there is a demon named 祟 (Sui) that would prey upon children by touching their heads to give them fevers or headaches, or even lose cognitive ability.

Huh. That explains a lot.

Hence it is believed that this 压岁钱 (literally “Suppress-Sui-Money”) would protect them from this demon. As both (the demon) and 岁 (age) sound similar, the meaning also gradually evolved into wishing the recipient a long and happy life. 

Also, a fun fact: 压岁钱 used to come in the form of strung-up coins, but let’s hope we don’t backtrack to those days…

The second kind of ang bao we’re bringing up is a personal favorite: the 开工红包 (kai-gong-hong-bao).

This is the ang bao given to employees by employers, as a token of appreciation for all the hard work they have put into the company. 

Lastly, the ang baos that working adults give their parents as a form of filial piety and gratitude, is simply called ang bao. 

So, don’t go around bragging that your boss gave you 压岁钱 this year, because you’ll probably get weird looks from your elders!

Ang Bao Money Doesn’t Have to Come in Even Numbers!

It is very commonly believed that you would need to give money in denominations of two, but that is not the case!


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This is because of the Chinese saying 成双成对, or forming pairs, and traditionally, ang baos given to newlyweds are given in even numbers so that the money can be split fairly.

(Hey, it’s called the fifty-cent coin, look it up.)

So spare a thought for your chronically single niece or nephew, and give them the odd number ang bao they deserve.

Men Do NOT Have to Give Their Wives Ang Bao!

If you’re scratching your head going “huh?”, I don’t blame you. To be honest, I’m not sure where this comes from either, as this is not a tradition we do in our family, immediate or extended. 

 But a rant posted by a disgruntled wife would beg to differ, so we are stepping in to clarify the issue once and for all for the sake of preserving marital harmony amongst our Singaporean brethren.


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Aforementioned wife said on the Facebook page NUS Whispers (of all places..?) in 2022 that her husband used to give her ang baos when they were dating, but things have changed upon their first year of marriage. 

When asked, the husband had allegedly said “Why should I give you?” and “Why didn’t you give me one instead?”

The wife concluded, “That’s when I realized being married to him has no value, never knew I have to beg for a token of blessing.”

Well, that’s harsh considering that a quick Google search will tell you that men giving wives ang bao is NOT part of Chinese traditional practice. Whether a man gives his wife an ang bao is entirely up to him, and vice versa.

Not to play devil’s advocate though, there are definitely some red flags in the way the husband snapped back as well. But, that’s not the point for now…

Newlyweds Do NOT Have to Distribute Ang Baos to Children

Now the part that piques the most interest.


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It is a cultural expectation for newly wedded couples to give out ang baos to the younger members of the family, even to relatives within their own generation. 

Some might say it is a rite of passage of sorts, marking the transition from a child of the family to the head of a new household.

However, Chinese tradition dictates that newlyweds are not required to give out ang baos. In fact, they are still eligible to collect their own red packets from their elders during their first year of marriage!

This is because it is believed that couples in their first year of marriage probably do not have children yet, and hence are unable to receive ang baos from their children in return.

So newlyweds, feel free to take a breather for this year, but always remember the ticking clock above your heads!


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(Come to think about it, why do all of these traditions revolve around marriage? Maybe I’m not the correct person to write this article…)

At the end of the day, Chinese New Year is not about money, but reunion and welcoming a fresh start with your loved ones.

While tradition may be important to many, it is also equally crucial to do what is best for yourself and what makes you happy.

Perhaps the true ang baos are the friends and family we made along the way. 

BUT IF YOU’RE STILL CONCERNED ABOUT MONEY, be sure to tune into Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Lawrence Wong’s Budget 2024 speech on the 7th day of Chinese New Year, or Renri.

With the 9% GST already set in place, may he become our God of Fortune this year.