Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Of NTUC in Chinese New Year and Ang Bao

I enjoy visiting the NTUC supermarket these days, the days leading to the Chinese New Year.

It is the only time of the year where one will witness huge crowds of people congregating on every festive item on sales at the supermarket.

The cacophony generated by the maddening crowd of people together with the Chinese New Year music blasting at top volumes from the radio liven up the festive shopping experience.

Mandarin oranges are the enduring fruits during Chinese New Year. I learnt from a salesman just some days ago from a visit to the supermarket that there are two types of mandarin oranges: 蕉橘 (jiao ju) and 卢橘 (lu ju).

Jiao ju mandarin oranges have thick and coarse skin while lu ju mandarin oranges have thinner and smoother skin.

Between the two, I prefer lu ju not just because its skin is easier to tear, I find that at many instances, the flesh of the orange is sweeter and does not dry up that fast as compared to jiao ju.

It seems that there is a myriad of things to learn if one wants to have a better appreciation of Chinese New Year.

Will ang bao givings be bled by the economic recession? In my personal opinion, I believe while everyone’s purse strings have become tighter during this economic downturn, ang bao givings will be only slightly be affected due to the importance of the ‘face’ culture in the Chinese tradition.

So instead of $6 per red packet, some Singaporeans may cut $2.. thus it will be $4 per packet. Not only is $4 per packet considered a small amount in today’s standard, ‘4’ in Chinese sounds similarly to death which is highly inauspicious. But ultimately it is the thought that counts.

Some Singaporeans may just choose to MIA (missing in action) during this period, while holing up at home and telling the whole lot of his relatives that he and his family have gone for a holiday. This will save them quite a sum of money if they don’t want to risk being found out and labeled as miserly!


Anonymous said...

This issue of ang pao - for CNY, new birth, weddings n birthdays has caused many frictions when the receiver is not happy with the contents. I hv been at the receiving end of such embarrasment when I heard it was being talked abt behind my back.

Being a novice in such matters when I first handed out ang paos, I thought S$ 20,00 was a good gift to the kids. I never expect some family members to hv higher expectations - was it bec of my hubby ? It is a misconception that caucasians r automatically loaded u know ! I think people need to travel out of their comfort zone n see how others lived. Never presumed anything until one knows it for certain.

I left Sg a day b4 the eve bec of work constrains (it's not celebrated in NL) n I overhead someone said that my ang pao hardly pays for the cab ride they took to see me off at Changi - Ouch !!! I hv since then avoided celebrating CNY in Sg. Never mind that it's a very expensive time for us, so close right after Xmas n wedding anniversaries.

So, do u think ang pao should be phased off ? If not, what is a reasonable amount ? At what age should one stopped accepting the gift ? When I was 13, I decided that I was old enough to do without it.

Our customs in Europe is mostly gifts for all occasions n it's the same case, so we hv agreed to do away with gifts n just cook up a feast n enjoy the celebration. Some might disagree, but I'm glad I dont hv to put up with sour faces !!

Singapore Short Stories said...

hi Dutchie!

I believe ang baos are part of the CNY tradition and hence the practice of ang bao giving should still be kept.

" thought S$ 20,00 was a good gift to the kids." ...wow u so rich! a $20,000 ang bao!

well I think its the thought that counts... one have to be careful and prudent of the amount one gives.. though people do not usually mark the hong bao by their names before giving, some recipients may have memorised which packet is given by who... if one have set a 'precedent' of giving a high amount for a year, the next year, he should not give any lower else it will not be nice.

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