Giving ang baos (translate: red packets) may be an age-old tradition tied to the Lunar New Year festivities, but it is also a practice that is shrouded in layers of etiquette. Very often, misunderstandings occur simply because the giver or receiver is not aware that he or she has made a mistake during the process.

Here are five most-commonly asked questions about the Lunar New Year and red packets – especially from the newly-weds.


ang pow, cushion, CNY

CNY Ang Bao Rate 2024

How much to give each family member?

Hongbao, or red packets, are traditionally handed out by married couples to their parents, single adults and children during the Chinese New Year celebrations as tokens of good fortune and blessing.

Chinese New Year Ang Bao RateAmount
Parents & In-Laws$188
Nieces, nephews, cousins$10
Distant relatives & friends$2, $6, $8

Dr Lim Lee Ching, vice-dean at the School of Human Development & Social Services at SIM University, says there is “no rule” in terms of the amount to put into a hongbao.

“Giving hongbao is a gesture and not a transaction, although many Singaporeans seem to think otherwise,” he says.

He adds that it is “not necessary, perhaps even impractical” to give the same amount to everyone.

Dr Kang Ger-Wen, course chair for Chinese Studies in Ngee Ann Polytechnic’s School of Humanities & Social Science, agrees with Dr Lim that there is no fixed amount for hongbao as it symbolises a blessing in Chinese tradition.

He also feels that the amount for a family member versus, say, a colleague’s child, should be different.

“Because in Chinese tradition, especially in Confucianism, love to a close family member and to a friend should be different,” he explains.

In 2015, The Straits Times Life published a story on the red packet ang bao rate. It was then $8 per packet, according to an online survey by the United Overseas Bank of 500 people and an informal poll conducted by the paper.

For newlyweds, these experts say the giving of ang paos should be within the couple’s means, and not become a source of financial stress.

“It’s really up to their own comfort level,” says Dr Lim.

He adds that there is also a convention that newlyweds do not give red packets in the first year of marriage.

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Married younger sibling give single older sibling red packets?

Married younger sibling give single older sibling red packets?

Dr Lim says this is “often a source of awkwardness”.

He has experienced such awkwardness, as he is single and sometimes still receives ang paos from younger friends or relatives.

Personal experience aside, he says there is “no etiquette” to this.

“It is up to the receiver, really,” he says.

Dr Kang, on the other hand, does not think that a younger, married sibling has to give a hongbao to an older, single sibling.

In general, he feels that “we do not need to give red packets to those who are able to earn a living for himself or herself”.

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Age limit for receiving red packets

Age limit for receiving red packets

Dr Lim says there are no set rules for this, as it is entirely up to both the giver and receiver, as well as the nature of the relationship.

“For example, between an elderly relative and a favourite grown-up niece, the giving of a ang bao may be a symbol of the closeness they share,” he says.

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Chinese New Year Ang Bao Rate 2023: Why do we need to give red packets?

Angbao amount: Must be even number?

Yes, says Dr Kang.

“In Chinese tradition, even numbers are preferred, as good things come in pairs.”

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Chinese New Year Ang Bao Rate 2023: Why do we need to give red packets?

Can I open angbao in front of people?

Both experts agree that it is rude to do so.

Adds Dr Lim: “But children will always want to, and get chastised by their parents for doing so – all in the name of festive cheer.”

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This article first appeared in The Straits Times.