Reading time: 4 minutes
The giving of ang pows has always been one of the activities eagerly awaited by children and unmarried adults during Chinese New Year.
That is quite understandable because as ordinary human beings, we find it hard to resist money and the temptation it brings.
Perhaps, you can get enough ang pows to buy that brand-new smartphone or take a backpacking trip to South Korea.
The legend of Sui
The origin of ang pow giving goes back to more than 2,000 years ago during the era of Qin Dynasty. As told by legends, there was a demon called ‘Sui’ who did nothing but scaring off little children one day before New Year.
All Sui had to do was touched their heads and then those little ones would get very sick and some of them even departed with this world.
Not everybody could stand with the terror of Sui, particularly a couple who was worried about the safety of their beloved child.
So, they prayed to their god and eventually, that god sent eight fairies to protect the kid.
Interestingly, the fairies came to the rescue in the form of eight coins wrapped in red paper that was placed under the child’s pillow (not sure whether the child was a boy or a girl).
As soon as everyone in that family dozed off, the evil Sui tried to touch the child’s head but it just couldn’t do so after seeing a bright light coming from the coins.
Since then, the Chinese started giving ang pows to their unmarried children as a symbolic act of wishing them a safe and peaceful year and to prevent bad luck.
Red has always been the most favorite color during Chinese New Year especially when it comes to ang pow packets.
Yes, there are ang pow packets in gold and yellow, but their popularity has never surpassed the ones in red.
The color red is usually viewed as the symbol for energy, luck and happiness.
Thus, the act of giving red ang pows can also be interpreted as wishing for someone’s luck.
Another interesting fact, red ang pows are also called ya sui qian (压岁钱). For those of you who don’t speak Mandarin, that means ‘suppressing ghost money’.
You can guess that name could have related to the legend of Sui and the eight coins (or fairies) packed in red ang pow.
Giving and receiving
Traditionally, ang pows are given by the elderlies and married couples to children and singles.
But in modern times, singles who have earned income also choose to give ang pows to their ageing parents or grandparents.
Well, how much you should give? The answer is quite simple: it is up to you. But, just make sure you don’t give away all the cash you have.
Besides, don’t put money in the amount that has the digit ‘4’ inside the ang pow. For example, RM4, RM49, RM154 and so on.
The Chinese believe 4 is an unlucky number in since it is nearly homophonous to the word “death”.
The rise of e-Angpow
We have seen the emergence of electronic ang pow (e-Angpow) since a few years back in the form of additional service provided by banks for their customers who observe the tradition.
Some people still prefer to do it the old ways as they believe e-Angpow eliminates the custom of giving money wrapped in red packets.
On the other hand, transferring money via e-Angpow sure seems convenient to uncles and aunties who live so far away from home and yet, they don’t want to miss the opportunity to share their prosperity with the younger members in their families.
Gong Xi Fa Cai
We at Red Angpow would like to take this opportunity to wish a Happy Chinese New Year to our Chinese friends and may we all have a prosperous and fruitful year ahead.