Your Essential Ang Bao Guide for Chinese New Year 2021

Your Essential Ang Bao Guide for Chinese New Year 2021

Ang bao giving is a symbolic tradition that has been passed down for generations. Seen as symbols of good luck, these red packets are given during the Chinese New Year and on other special occasions such as weddings and birthdays. Here in Singapore, its importance is no less diminished today.

For the uninitiated or first-timers, red packets are a Chinese New Year practice where married adults give out ang baos to their unmarried relatives of the younger generation.

This gesture serves as an act of giving blessings and well wishes to the juniors and the little ones so that they may have an auspicious start to the new year. Many working adults also take this opportunity to give ang baos to their parents to show their gratitude.

If you are wondering about the dos and don’ts about this tradition, fret not. We’ve got the answers to your questions in this essential guide.

Why ang baos?

Why ang baos?

To understand the evolution of the tradition, we can look back at how it started.

Legend has it that there used to be a demon named ‘Sui’ that terrorised little children. One day, the ‘Sui’ demon appeared to frighten a child after a couple put him to bed and placed a red paper bag containing copper coins under his pillow. However, upon seeing the copper coins and the red packet, the ‘Sui’ fled in fear.

Since then, the practice has been followed on the eve of the Chinese New Year, where coins wrapped in red paper would be placed under the child’s pillow to ward off the demon. This was how the term ‘ya sui qian’, which is literally translated to “demon-suppressing money”, came about.

Although the legends surrounding ang bao giving are thousands of years old, it wasn’t until the Song Dynasty in the 12th century that giving money during Chinese New Year became the norm.

Known at the time as “li shi”, the packets were likely made from silk or cloth, and parents gave their children 100 coins representing one hundred years of life. Nowadays as technology advances, giving eAng baos or QR Gift have become more widely accepted too due to their ease of use and convenience.

We just got married and our BTO is on the way!

We just got married and our BTO is on the way!

We get it. You are running low on funds and coming off the back of major expenses for your wedding and the house.

For this scenario, there is no hard and fast rule. Some families practise a first-year exemption, while some don’t. To spare yourself the judgment of your aunties, it’s always wise to prepare a few ang baos on hand – as it’s your first year, it’s understandable that your ang baos will be small and that’s fine for most families.

Giving an ang bao to non-relatives

You can give an ang bao to anyone! Your office pantry aunty, the security guard, the delivery guy and whomever you want to wish well. After all, the true essence of ang bao giving has not changed since the days of old – our relationships with one another and wishing the best upon those around us.

How much should I give?

The art of ang bao giving

This is typically the part out of the whole festivity where we stress over about the most. If you’ve received ang baos from your relatives before, using their rates as a rough estimate is a good start.

Yet, one thing is for sure, you should avoid giving any amount with the number four, as its Chinese and Cantonese pronunciations sound like “death”. The number eight, on the other hand, is generally regarded to be an auspicious number since it sounds similar to “fa”, which signifies great wealth. Aside from that, any value in an even number is good. As the Chinese proverb goes, “Good Things Come in Pairs”.

Do I need to get new notes?

Do I need to get new notes?

“Out with the old, in with the new” - the Lunar New Year represents new beginnings. Houses are all spic and span, and everyone is decked out in new clothes. That’s why it’s polite to ensure the notes you give are fresh and crisp.

For your safety and convenience during Covid-19, you can withdraw new notes at the Pop-Up ATMs at your local Community Clubs / nearest Self-Service Branches from 25 January to 10 February. Do note that you will need to make a notes reservation online before heading down to the branches. 

Another alternative is the safer and quicker option of DBS QR Gift cards. Skip the crowds and the queues and save time by bulk loading multiple DBS QR Gift cards on your PayLah! app. Even kids and teens can now sign up for PayLah!, with parental consent, and receive or redeem your gift with a simple scan.

What’s more, these QR Gift cards can be gifted on their own. You and your loved ones can help conserve the environment through recycling used QR Gift cards at the recycling points made available in any DBS/POSB Branches, islandwide.

Scan to load QR Gift cards

Scan to load QR Gift cards

Scan to load QR Gift cards

What should I say when giving ang baos?

Here are 8 auspicious quotes to wish your relatives and friends when blessing them with an ang bao:


Go 100% digital with DBS eGift

House visiting is a big part of Chinese New Year where ang baos are given. But with Phase 3 safe distancing measures only allowing up to eight house guests a day, you might not be able to visit everyone in time.

Thanks to online video conferencing and eGifting on DBS PayLah! app, you can still continue the ang bao tradition and share prosperity with the same huat. Let your loved ones and friends know you’re thinking of them this festive season, even if you can’t be there to celebrate in person.

Send your virtual blessings with an eGift safely to anyone, anywhere, at any time – and put a smile on their faces with a surprise eGift!

How to send an eGift

How to send an eGift

TapLah! game with S$888 up for grabs

Take part in the TapLah! contest from 12 February to 26 February 2021 by sending or receiving QR gifts and eGifts and stand to win S$888 in cash. All you need to do is gift or redeem a QR Gift of at least S$2 and earn your chance to play.

Same same, but different

While this Chinese New Year may be a little different, the importance of kinship and friendship remains the same. With all these essential bases covered, you are well on your way to a smooth-sailing and prosperous new year!


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