Young Singaporean parents or newlyweds giving out Chinese New Year hongbaos for the first time often have no clue about the market CNY hongbaorates and traditions surrounding hongbao giving.
Giving out hongbaos for the first time during Chinese New Year can be a very daunting experience. Just prior to this, you were on the receiving end of the hongbao and having a lot less to worry about (other than what you would be spending the money on).
Many young parents and newlyweds approach this season with trembling hands and wallets, which is why the following information on CNY hongbao rates as well as some other important points to note is going to help you prepare for the upcoming CNY season.
Here’s what you need to know to get yourself prepared for the festivities:
What is the minimum amount to give?
This is the golden question and one that is foremost on everyone’s mind. Let’s begin first by saying that most seniors will tell you it is not good practice to give odd number amounts like $5 or $7 as Chinese traditions do not consider these odd numerals to be auspicious.
Amounts for hongbaos should always be in pairs or even numbers, so you are going to be in good shape this Chinese New Year if you are “bao-ing” amounts like $2 or $8 or $20.
The $4 amount is debatable because although it is an even number, the “4” in Chinese sounds like “death”, inferring bad luck, so some couples stay clear of this just because they don’t want to send out a bad signal (we know it’s tempting as it’s a nice low amount to give kids that you don’t really know very well). This does depend sometimes on your dialect group; it has been said that Teochews do not see “4” as inauspicious.
CNY hongbao rates by hierarchy
Of course, there is no fixed minimum amount for each level of recipient as it should be dependent on your financial situation and how much you feel you can afford. Rich folk are possibly giving out Ang Baos with thousands of dollars but we’ll focus on us regular Singaporeans here.
The following are approximations we gathered from speaking with seasoned couples with some years of hongbao giving under their belts, and in accordance with family hierarchy.
Something to note is that peers do not usually give hongbaos to each other, or rather it is less expected. So, if you meet an old classmate at a CNY gathering who isn’t married yet, it would not be weird if you did not give one to this person.
Is there an age limit to receiving hongbaos?
The tradition mostly points to the fact that once you are married, you do not receive hongbaos anymore and become the giver of them. Assuming you are not married, most people we spoke to believe that receiving hongbaos when you are in your late 30s becomes awkward and many will meet such kind gestures with “Wah, so old already – no need lah uncle / auntie”!
Giving hongbaos to adults who are already earning a living on their own isn’t always necessary. However, you should ultimately go with giving according to your comfort level, and according to your family practices.
Should hongbaos be opened in public or in front of the giver?
Most will attest to having been scolded as young children for opening hongbaos in the living room for the world to see. It is made worse if the giver of the hongbao is in your presence. So, parents who have young children who receive hongbaos – a prior briefing about not opening it publicly is usually advised.
Where to get hongbao packets to use?
The trend seems to be towards giving hongbaos that are from banks, and better yet prominent banks in Singapore. This all sounds very flashy and materialistic, but hey we don’t make the rules, we just point them out. Some even say that it’s not just the bank but also the account level that is meant to send out a signal to gawking relatives. i.e. giving out hongbao packets that make it abundantly clear that you are some high level priority banking customer.
Honestly, don’t bother about these subtle nuances during your first few years of Chinese New Year giving. Call your bank and get them to send you red packets in the mail or drop by your nearest branch where you have an account and ask if you can get some. In most cases, they will be happy to oblige.
Alternatively, more and more companies are creating unique hongbao designs, so you might also get some from your neighbourhood petrol station or supermarket. If all else fails, you can brave the crowds and buy your own Ang Baos from stalls in Chinatown’s Festive Street Bazaar.