There are some things that really, really shouldn’t be defined. What you put inside the ang pow is one of them.
It is not necessary and it is distasteful. It goes against the grain of what giving an ang pow is all about. In fact when I give to my aunt, she’ll ask me to take the money out and she’ll keep only the red packet for luck.
Today we have national newspapers, polls, banks and netizens trying to tell us how much we should give.
No. No. No. No. No.
I once wrote about how annoyed I was with “market rates” for wedding ang pows and now the Straits Times produces this?!
This is too much.
Is the Chinese New Year a mercantile festival?
This illustrates why we shouldn’t have a minimum wage, precisely for these reasons. Once you know what the price floor is, there is really no need to give more. “Oh, ok…that’s the amount? Maybe I’ll give just a dollar more and I’ll look generous”.
Sooner or later you’ll need a government body to assess the market value of these things. Sooner or later Parliament will need to pass legislation to raise the price floor of an ang pow.
The crystal balls says in another 50 years, we’re going to have a Ministry of Ang Pows because we’ll be too stupid to determine the value of a relationship and have to rely on normative guidelines.
Other countries are going to read articles about how this strange country of Singapore has strict rules about how much to money to give at festivals and customs. “Tsk, tsk…how material…” scoffs the rest of the world.
So let’s stop it. Stop it before we loose our sense and ability to think and gauge. Before we lose our ability to stand by a value decision and be responsible for it.
If you don’t know how much to give, then maybe you should question your relationship with the other party than to take to the internet for advice.
Let’s go back to the origins of the custom – a symbolic piece of red paper with a little token of luck and blessing.
Its true value?