Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Ang pow tales (红包阿红包)

Ang pow envelopes prepared by my firm for staffs and clients.

Giving out the red packet or ang pow as it is commonly known is a traditional Chinese affair that dates back to the Qin Dynasty to ward off evil spirit and to symbolize prosperity and good luck on occasions such as celebrating the Chinese New Year, birthday, wedding and full moon of a child. Ang pow is usually given to the elderly and the younger ones by those who are married and custom dictate that married ones no longer receive any, but this is very much depending on the custom and tradition of each family.

In my family, regardless of one is married or single, we still receive ang pow from my grandmother and my parents. Yann, Yong and myself always look forward to the ang pow by daddy dearest which he will distribute after reunion dinner instead of the first day of Chinese New Year. Before receiving it, we will always hint to him jokingly that the amount should be more than the previous year due to inflation and the weakening of the ringgit much to the laughter of my mother who will remark “give them Indonesian rupiah instead and all will be millionaires”.

Actually, it is not the amount in the ang pow that is important but a gesture of love, a wishing of prosperity and a token of gratitude. However, as our world gets more materialistic, all those are no longer in the mind of the receiver and sometimes, the giver. Why do I mention the giver? That is because some giver belongs to the group of stingy and calculative people who do not take into consideration the amount of hard work or time that the receiver had forked out or in the instance of wedding dinner, whether the amount is considered too low beyond reasonable. I understand that there is no fixed guideline or “a must amount” when giving out ang pow but the giver much not act unreasonably too.

I have a friend who recently lends his car and his driver to a friend for his friend’s wedding.  My poor friend not only do not receive any token of appreciation other than the word “thank you” from his friend, he had to fork out the money for petrol, toll charges and his driver’s overtime. However, much to his horror, his driver only receive a red packet consists of RM 28 for his two day’s service which should include his meal allowance. In this instance, I would say that the giver is inconsiderate because he should understand that RM 28 can’t buy breakfast, lunch and dinner for two days.

Earlier this year, it was reported in the Huffington Post that a reader in Singapore wrote in to share her story of the bride sending a Facebook message expressing her dissatisfaction with the $100 wedding gift she received from the reader. Well, similar incident do not only happen in Singapore to the poor reader. A friend of mine shared her story that she received a call from the bride who is (now) an ex colleague scolding her for giving only RM 300 ang pow during her wedding dinner which was held in a restaurant in KL. The reason given was: “you are so rich, in so much higher position, you should give more! How can you be giving lesser than Mr XX who is in the same position as you?” My friend almost needs a CPR after that phone call.

Another common encounter is receiving an empty packet. Receiving an empty ang pow is considered a very inauspicious thing to the receiver. So, giver, please make sure we do not mistakenly give out empty packets to others. However, there are stingy people that have the habit of giving out empty ang pows to others by giving the reason: “Aiyaa…giving ang pow is not about money, it is the ang pow. Who said ang pow must contain money?”
My philosophical mind always wonder why would people want to make such much fuss when giving out or receiving the ang pow for I am a firm believer in generosity begets generosity.

P/S: I more thrilled of the nice design of the ang pows than its content. 

To read more about ang pow: 

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