From Ang Bao to e-Ang Bao, does the meaning change without the physical red packet?

Chinese New Year or Lunar New Year is a significant festival for the Chinese all around the world. This coming “Niu” year (“Niu” 牛, the cow is the Chinese zodiac for the year 2021) can feel quite unfamiliar for many who are unable to reunite with their families and relatives due to the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions. Traditions are challenged as well. We can’t shout loudly when doing “lo-hei” (tossing Yusheng), we will reduce the number of house visits, and potentially change the Ang Bao (red packet) into e-Ang Bao to minimize the risk of physical contact.

Many say that the actual significance of giving Ang Bao is mainly on the red packet while the money in it is secondary. Giving Ang Bao to our close ones, young or old, represents our sharing of blessings for them – good luck, prosperity, happiness, and good health. Receiving Ang Bao and keeping the red packets after emptying also show our respect and gratitude to the givers.

However, the pandemic disrupts this tradition by restricting people from visiting their loved ones, thus unable to give Ang Bao physically. It also introduces concerns when it comes to paper money as more people have gone cashless and contactless payment since the pandemic started. Options such as e-Ang Bao by DBS PayLah are not new and some people have started using them in the last few years.

With Ang Bao get replaced by e-Ang Bao, which you can’t physically offer to and accept from a person, it can feel quite strange. Does it affect the meaning of giving Ang Bao? Not at all!

In fact, what’s deeper in meaning than the red packet is at the heart and sincerity of giving.

More importantly, this festive season, it should be about understanding what the person needs and how best to address those needs. For example, buying practical gifts (e.g. upgrading household necessities) for our parents could be better than giving them cash which they might end up saving in the bank or under the pillow.

Indeed, the amount doesn’t matter as long as it represents your sincerity and does not give burdens to yourself and your recipients.

P/S: If you are thinking of giving e-Ang Baos, why not try out Google Pay and earn some cash back?

This post is not sponsored by any of the brands mentioned above.