Friday, February 19, 2021

The Giving of Ang Pows

The giving of ang pows is both an art and the most irritating practice in all of the Chinese traditions. I honestly don't care about it very much. Social norms and etiquette dictate that I fulfill something if my finances allow for this indulgence. Sometimes, people are 'nice' and I feel like I ought to do something during one of the major festivals in Singapore and put that 'Chinese privilege' to some use. 

I find it a conspiracy to dictate married couples having to give ang pows to people who aren't. Even if they're relatives and it's 'family tradition' to do so. It's just social pressure for you to have kids so you 'earn' back the ang pows from those who also have an equally big brood. Ang pow amounts are also calculated like this, for fairness and so as 'not to lose out'. It's damn silly, stupid and awkward. It's an utter waste of money too. I've never done this deed to embarrass any of my unmarried friends because the state of marriage or otherwise in any of their relationships doesn't bother me.

So I usually give ang pows (containing recycled notes deemed 'new-enough') to:

  • The delivery crew (food and parcels) I meet if I'm at home to receive the packages. The home estate's administrative, maintenance and cleaning crew, plus security team, those whom I'm familiar with, and those rostered to my block. 
  • My hairdresser, nail technicians, skin clinic nurses, personal care therapists, et cetera. Choya's school handlers, veterinary clinic's staff, my Pilates and Gyrotonic instructors, and such.
  • Friends' children whom I'm close to, and see regularly; I know minor details and milestones in their lives, and whom I will see during the lunar new year period, all of which would usually be a grand total of FOUR younglings. Hahahaha. It was only two this year though. I also sent digital ang pows to four other teenagers whom I'm rather fond of.
  • No choice but to allocate budget to still-in-school or fresh-out-of-school younger nieces and nephews. Technically they're first and second cousins once removed. Of which I have thankfully very few. If I see them, I see them this once a year. I have no interest in getting to know them and I don't care about their lives. I don't even know their names. If I happen to see them, I might give them an ang pow. Or not. I don't do the thing of asking someone to help me hand the ang pows over. 'Please help me pass it to XYZ and ABC.' Nope.

I don't care about what they think of me if I don't give out any. The one time I prepped a $250 birthday pack of presents for a first cousin once removed (a toddler), and I was primly told that presents weren’t enough, and I should give an ang pow on top of those because 'they threw a party and would have incurred expenses and we should cover their cost since we were invited'. HELLO, DID I ASK TO BE INVITED? I've never given any presents to said child ever since or attended any more of this party nonsense. It's not about holding grudges, it's about using these incidents for future reference. And remind myself that YOUR VALUES AREN'T MINE, AND THAT'S OKAY. I DON’T EXIST TO FULFIL YOUR EXPECTATIONS. I DON’T NEED TO MAKE MYSELF UNHAPPY TO MAKE YOU HAPPY.  I DON'T NEED TO REACH YOUR HIGH STANDARDS OF BEING LABELED AS 'THOUGHTFUL' AND 'GENEROUS'. AND I’M STILL A WONDERFUL HUMAN BEING.

Of course this year, on the first day of Lunar New Year, some willful hosts were deliberately evasive to our direct questions on number of visitors and intended time of gatherings, and sabo-ed us. Thanks, family. With that stunt pulled, I obviously wasn't prepped to give anyone an ang pow. I certainly don't carry extras around, not even on Day 1. What am I? The God of Fortune? TOO BAD. NO ANG POWS FOR Y'ALL. It's unorthodox, but it works for my mental well-being. Yeah, I'm still peeved, even after Ash Wednesday's reflections.

All helpful articles suggested 'hierarchy' as the guide to the amount to give. And the articles almost always mention giving out new notes, going digital and prepping extra unexpected ang pows. I know how much money I want to pack into each red packet, and their intended recipients. But I still take a look at what the 'recommended rates' are, and have a laugh, and gauge my decisions accordingly. On a personal note, I really cannot give out $2 ang pows. I might as well don't give! (Haha I really don't- I don't give for the sake of giving.)

Source: DBS's 'Your Essential Ang Bao Guide for Chinese New Year 2021',
published on 19 January 2021.

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