Red packet, or more affectionately known as Ang Bao, is a traditional monetary gift given among family and friends during Chinese New Year. Particularly, from the married to the unmarried. These red packets are a symbol of fortune and prosperity, and the giver’s wishes of luck.

But is there such a thing as “too old” to receive an Ang Bao? Or are you being “stingy” with the amount that you give? Let’s take a look at the common Ang Bao do’s and don’ts before we tell you what’s the “better” rate to give.


Are you too old to receive an Ang Bao?

No, and yes. Partly because the same old tradition has been passed down across generations, so there’s never such thing as “too old” as long as you’re an unmarried individual.

But we get it. You’ve already started working and maybe you’re in your 30s, and that paiseh feeling kicks in when your younger (and married) cousin passes you an Ang Bao. Tradition says that you can take it and add on to your mahjong fund. But if you really feel quite paiseh to take it, then simply thank them for the thought and well wishes and offer them a slice of bak kwa (it works wonders)!

 

Are you being “stingy” with your Ang Bao?

The amount of money tends to be the focus of an Ang Bao. But you really shouldn’t be pressured to give big Ang Baos just because you don’t want to seem stingy. But we also don’t mean you should skip the Ang Bao section. 

Instead, Chinese New Year should be the perfect time that you gather with your family and friends to celebrate the festivity and catch up on each other’s lives. Hence, the rates below are merely suggestions based on family hierarchy, and you should ultimately deem what is the best fit for you.

Relation to PersonRecommended Ang Bao RateWhy this amount?

Parents, In-laws and Grandparents

$188 - $388

A way to show respect, gratitude and filial piety to your parents for raising and caring for you.

Children and Grandchildren

$50 - $188

A representation of parental love given by parents and grandparents to the younger generation.

Cousins, Nephews and Nieces

$8 - $28

Depending on how close you are to your extended family, and since there might be quite a handful of them, it can be good to keep this amount a little lower.

Friend's Children

$8 - $12

They are not your direct relatives but it would be nice to give them one.

Public workers

$5 - $10

Maids of your relatives, migrant workers from your block, this is a nice token of appreciation for their work.

 

Other Do’s and Don’ts of giving an Ang Bao 

  • DO NOT use a white envelope as white is the colour of mourning.
  • Other colour variations (pink, yellow, gold) works as well!
  • Avoid giving any amount with the number 4. “Four” translates to “sì” in Mandarin and is an alternate tone of the word “death”.
  • Give an even amount as even numbers are deemed to be more ‘rounded’ and wholesome.
  • Any amount with the number 8 for so they can huat more!

Finally, You should still check with the elderly if they agree with you giving out Ang Baos if you are single. The older and more conservative generation might not be agreeable to this new way of celebrating Chinese New Year.

Giving an Ang Bao is no longer closely tied to your marital or financial status, so feel free to be more flexible with the amount given while still avoiding the don’ts. Don’t forget to check with the older generation if they are agreeable with you giving out Ang Baos if you are single.


As Chinese New Year draws nearer, don’t forget to start preparing early. Get your shiny new notes exchanged in time, shop for your CNY outfit early and start the festivities going! Don’t forget to install the ShopBack Browser Button so you can save more money for the Ang Baos you need to give!

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* Originally published on 11 Jan 2018, updated on 21 Jan 2020.

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