Ang pows used to be the highlight of Chinese New Year, until you progressed from being a receiver to a giver. Now ang pows can become a chore especially when you have to allocate a good amount for your relatives’ kids, friends’ kids, neighbour’s kids, and so forth. But the throbbing question everyone’s secretly asking is: what’s the appropriate amount of money to give away in each packet during Chinese New Year?
There’s an unspoken rule and guide, measured in terms of familial or friendly closeness and frequency of meetings beyond festive occasions. Giving too little will leave a bitter taste in somebody’s mouth; giving too much is also a Chinese New Year faux pas. If you’ve never done this before, or are still struggling to understand the general amount to give, we prepared a simple guide that you can follow:
For your own children
Recommended amount: The highest amount you can afford to give.
Your children deserve the best, and so they shall get it. You should be giving the biggest ang pow (in terms of amount, not size) to your own kids because they’re your closest family members. It won’t do to give other kids ang pows with a larger amount than the ones you give your kids.
For your younger siblings
Recommended amount: RM20-50
For those with younger siblings who are still unmarried, these are the people who should be given ang pows with the second highest amount you can afford to give. After your children, your siblings are the ones who are closest to you. They’ve been there with you throughout your whole life: annoying you sometimes but cheering you on for most of their lives.
They deserve this honour of being given the second biggest ang pow.
For your unmarried cousins, nieces, and nephews
Recommended amount: RM20-30
Stated above is the recommended rate for red packets given to unmarried members of your extended family. They’re not as close to you as you children and siblings are, however, they are still family. As the saying goes, blood is thicker than water – hence the packet should be slightly thicker than those that you give out to children of friends and acquaintances.
For children of close friends
Recommended amount: RM10-20
These are children of friends you meet regularly: they can be colleagues who you meet outside work for casual get-togethers, college or school friends you still keep in contact with, and childhood friends who are your BFFs. They’re almost like family, but not quite, thus the ang pows given should not be of a higher amount that those that you give to your extended family members.
For children of acquaintances and strangers
Recommended amount: RM8-10
You won’t just be giving angpows to people you know – custom dictates that you will be handing out red packets to children you meet when you’re doing Chinese New Year house visits, whether you know them or not. You may reserve the ang pow with the lowest amount to acquaintances you hardly meet on casual terms, or children of strangers you meet during visits. An angpow with RM8 is also seen as an auspicious and lucky sign.
Note that this is just a rough guide and that you don’t need to follow the exact amount stated above. Money should be given sincerely, and you should only be giving out what you can afford. There’s no need to squeeze out RM100 just to appear more generous.
Giving out customised ang pows will delight the receiver just as much as the amount in them. Read this piece on the trendiest designs in Malaysia for some ang pow inspiration. You can engage any of our designers and printers to create customised red packets this Chinese New Year. Just fill in this form, let us know the design you’re looking at, and we’ll send you some quotations for free!
written by Esther Chung