Monday January 30, 2012
Values that an ang pow can convey
Monday Starters - By Soo Ewe Jin
WHEN I was growing up, we would receive ang pows with coins. The 40-sen ang pows were fairly common although I had a grand aunt who would give us 4-sen ang pows.
Hers was the one I remember best because we loved to go to her house where water came from a well and she reared chickens, ducks and geese. Her vegetable garden provided us plenty of space to run about.
The RM1.10 ang pow was considered a fortune in those days.
Nowadays, I doubt if anyone is brave enough to give ang pows with coins in them. The ang pow packets seem to be designed to encourage one to slip in RM10 or RM50 notes instead.
I am not a stickler for tradition and I do not feel pressured to increase the value of the ang pows I give out based on the rise in the Consumer Price Index or the growth in our nation’s GDP. Those who want me to do so must be prepared to get nothing should we go into a downturn.
I started to give out ang pows when I got married and at that time, because I had moved out of Penang, I believed my ang pows were rated on the “high” side by my Penang relatives.
For the nieces and nephews, an ang pow with a red note inside was certainly an ang pow to rule them all.
But after 25 years, I am sure this same amount considered high in those days would now be deemed “miserly”.
Still, I have not had any complaints from my wonderful family members so far, because I constantly remind them that the red packet is just a token of my love and is certainly not given to help them get rich fast.
Which is why I really feel great pity for this grandfather in Singapore who was labelled a “dumb old fella” by her grand-daughter because he only gave her a S$2 ang pow.
And she had the nerve to tell it to the whole world on her Facebook page!
Fortunately, her friends did not “like” her posting but instead told her off for not showing respect to the elderly.
In China, we are told, according to recent news reports, that children born after 1990 prefer to receive either an iPad or iPhone instead of the ang pow during the Chinese New Year.
Eight-year-old Zhao Xiao Li was quoted as saying that she hoped to receive an iPad instead of “ya sui qian” which refers to ang pow money from her parents.
One mother, known only as Ling Hui, said her 14-year-old son also insisted on an iPad and promised to clean the house and undertake household chores just to get the Apple device.
I am probably naïve to think that we can reverse this trend of the young generation worshipping money and material things as their god. After all, where do they learn this from?
But it would be good to hear occasional stories about young people donating their ang pow proceeds to a worthy cause.
Parents could consider giving out ang pows where, instead of real ringgit notes, there would be a little note that says, “The money that I wanted you to have has been donated to charity under your name because I know you care for those who will go through this festive period not knowing when their next meal will come from.”
But I must warn you that trying to do charity on another person’s behalf is not always appreciated.
Still, it is a thought, and a constant reminder in these festive times, to myself at least, that we should all aspire to live simply, so that others may simply live.