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'Ang Pow' Etiquette: What You Should And Shouldn't Do When Giving Or Receiving

There are rules and regulations.


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'Ang Pow' Etiquette: What You Should And Shouldn't Do When Giving Or Receiving
Image: Wah Chan Gold & Jewellery

Prepare your pockets, boys and girls!

Chinese New Year is just around the corner, and you know what that means? 

Time to reap in those 'ang pows'! Or for those who are married, it also means that it's time to break out the bank and stuff those red packets (sucks to be you).

However, unlike giving out and receiving treats on Halloween, there is a set of rules you need to abide to when it comes to giving and receiving 'ang pows'.

Here are some things you need to keep in mind:

#1 Never, ever use white 'ang pow' envelopes

Not the right time, Gandalf the White.
In case you didn't know, this is the ultimate no-no. White 'ang pow' envelopes, also known as 'pak kum' in Cantonese, are given to bereaved families at funerals. So yeah, now you see why you shouldn't use white envelopes.

#2 Always receive an 'ang pow' with two hands

Two is better than one.
Unless a shark bit off one of your hands, always receive an 'ang pow' with both hands. It is a sign of respect.

#3 Work out a budget

Budgeting is smart.
Before packing your red packets, set aside an estimated budget you want to give away. But make sure that it's within your means, yeah? One good tip is to work out a tier system (how much you plan to give your elders, your siblings, your workers, etc.) and it'll definitely help with budgeting.

#4 Never open an 'ang pow' in front of the giver

Rude is not a good look.
...and the subsequent "Hah, so little only ah?" remark will ensure that you'll never, ever getting anymore 'ang pows', sir! Opening an 'ang pow' in front of the giver is considered rude, so never, ever do that, yeah?

#5 Give an 'ang pow' with the amount being an even number

Always remember two!
According to Chinese tradition, even numbers are auspicious because "good things come in pairs". So, if you are thinking of giving away RM5, make it RM6 lah. Oh, the only even number you shouldn't give is '4'.

#6 Use new banknotes

How we feel getting new notes.
Actually, this is not such big of a deal (because old money is still money, right?), but giving crisp new banknotes signify new beginnings. Besides, you never know where the old banknotes have been, so...

#7 Know your audience

You to your nephews and nieces.
While it's OK for an unmarried, working adult to give an 'ang pow' to their parents or their nephews/nieces, it's not compulsory for a married adult to give an 'ang pow' to their older, unmarried sibling or friend. Trust us, things will get very awkward.

#8 Never give an 'ang pow' without an 'ang pow' envelope

We're not begging, please!
Because then, it would be known as a donation, and we all know what happens when you receive donations. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

#9 Don't put coins into an 'ang pow'

Take all the coins!
What, you think it's still 1990, issit?

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