My western readers not from Singapore probably won’t understand how the significance of the ANG BAO in the Chinese context. Well, no fear, I’ll explain in brief before I launch into today’s post. =)
Angbaos are basically red packets that elders use as a form of blessings they disperse to younger people. Unmarried people and kids are usually the recipients of such blessings that are meant to ward off evil, a tradition that originated from Chinese history.
Today, angbaos are given at important events such as Chinese New Year, weddings, kids’ birthdays etc. The amount given should be even to signify good luck and prosperity to the recipient.
But of course, the amount that one receives in such red packets has become an issue of contention these days. Just how much does one give to avoid appearing stingy or live up to the recipient’s expectations? Especially for weddings where guests are expected to pay and cover the wedding couple’s expenses.
Very stressful, right?
Here’s a helpful guide that has been making its rounds in emails:
Yes, people…we have a chart to show the different factors that could tip the balance. But really, in my personal opinion…must there be such a big fuss over the amount to begin with? I sometimes don’t understand the obsession over how much one receives during CNY, weddings or other events. The amount of angbao shouldn’t be a gauge of how important you are to the giver right?
I mean, if you’ve decided to invite so and so, it should be enough that he/she attends your important event with well wishes and blessings.
In fact, I’m going to copy/paste what I personally feel is one of the most insightful and wise opinion on the issue of angbao (in the context of a wedding banquet):
Ok, please allow auntie here to share some controversial views. Auntie here is 过来人 so hopefully my “insights” will be of some value.
1) Whether you hold tea party, banquet or some reception, don’t start with the expectation of making money. Do what you can afford. Because if you’re going to be stressed with money, you’re going to a) be a very stressed bride, and b) be very unhappy if some of your guests do not “pay” up to “expectation”.
With this starting point, just regard your reception as a “free” reception. Any angpao you receive will be bonus.
2) Given (1), it will force you to be really, really prudent about your wedding expenditure. Wedding is just ONE DAY. Unless you have some spectacular wedding featuring horse drawn carriage and fireworks, it’s just another wedding for your guests. You will, hopefully, begin to ask yourself why you spend so much on your package, why you need to fly to Europe for honeymoon, do you need to invite 1,000 people, etc.
3) Also, if you are financing the dinner yourself (i.e. don’t rely on parents), you can have FULL SAY over who can come for your wedding dinner. If your parents sponsor, then you have ZERO SAY. This is a very simple power struggle. The one with greater power (i.e. $$$) will have more say. If your parents don’t contribute, you can tell them to fly kite if they want to invite the entire village
4) Of course, a wedding dinner is also for your parents. I’m not suggesting that you don’t listen to your parents at all. However, there’s now a very legitimate reason to really trim your guest list. You want to have a wedding that is respectable, and your parents would like to be able to invite their friends and associates. However, unless they are some tycoon or millionaire (which means budget will not be a problem to begin with), they must understand that they need to trim down their guest list.
5) Holding a small, intimate dinner or reception is way way memorable than holding a grand banquet. The best wedding dinners I’ve attended (and I choose them very carefully) are the type that everybody knows everybody else. Like, I know the couple AND their family that type. The nicest wedding dinner I attended was a 10 table affair in a private room at Cherry Garden.
6) A banquet, a reception or a restaurant treat will be “worth the effort” if the people you are inviting are “worth inviting”. If the people you are inviting mean nothing to you, of course it will not be worth the effort. When I say “worth the effort” I don’t mean $. You want your close friends and family to celebrate with you, no matter how much or how little they pay. I really think this obsession with ang pao is getting out of hand.
7) NEVER NEVER GET INTO DEBT!
8) The simple rule is = the smaller the affair, the easier to handle, the less stress.
Despite all that’s said, a wedding is invariably a family affair. It takes a lot of management and careful maneuvering so that everybody’s wants and needs can be taken care of as much as possible. You can never satisfy everyone, so be prepared for quarrels and compromises. But remember – IT’S ONLY ONE DAY. Keep that in mind when you’re faced with difficult situations.
Good advice, no? If you invite people for the sole purpose of making a quick buck out of them (despite the fact that their monthly budget may be busted), then sadly you’re gonna be one very unhappy person. =x
Might as well just hold a simple lunch/dinner and save yourself the aggravation. =x
Spend and give within one’s means, I always say. =3