I don’t have much to show you for today. Maybe I will later when I go out for a gathering with my school friends. But I’m making the post now, so I don’t. I guess maybe I should tell you what happened last night…
We went to an extended family last night for a big 拜年 bai nian gathering. It was the first time we did this in YEARS…
You see, in the past, when grandma was around, we got used to people taking turns visiting us instead. There’s an unspoken rule that you have to visit the eldest member of the family tree during Chinese New Year. And then grandma left for a better place and the visiting kind of stopped, because the relatives no longer need to come and we were so used to relaxing at home instead of going out and about.
My 舅婆 kau poh (is that the right name?) – grandma’s sister in law – did most of the cooking with fresh ingredients mostly brought from their hometown in Perak. It was a great feast laid out on 3 tables. There’s prawns, braised pork trotters, and the infamous steamed dick-less chicken (castrated chicken).
You see, I was so used to staying at home, when the relatives take turns to visit our home. At any one time, there won’t be more than 15 people under one roof. Then last night, there were 5 or 6 small family units coming together. I did not count but there must have been over 20 adults and 40 or 50 people combined. It came as some sort of a culture shock to me last night. I was overwhelmed with loud chatters and laughter coming from all direction. All I did was basically eat, and then sat down at a corner and received angpows from every direction.
Man, the angpows. I haven’t checked the contents yet, but I got like 10 angpows in one single visit. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced this before. It was incredible!
Anyway, I was not very familiar with my cousins and extended cousins. I mostly sat there, watching people and my phone simultaneously. That all changed when one of the cousins flashed a deck of cards and shouted “来！过年一定要来下One Lup！Come, we have to have some One Lup (Blackjack) during CNY!“
Immediately, some space was cleared and a few of us was firmly lodged in our good spots. Some say card games and money will bring people together, and that you don’t need to know the actual rank of your relatives to partake in a pok kiao (gambling) session together. I totally agree. After a few rounds of “Ah!! Got liao! Got liao! Chance lai liao! Chance lai liao!!!“, all unfamiliarity and awkwardness evaporated.
I have to admit, even now I still have not made clear whose who from last night. All I know is that they were my “cousins” and “cousins-in-law” and that we had tonnes of fun. I guess that’s more important.
What is angpow (红包 hong bao)?
This is a difficult question to answer. I think first I have to list down the different names that it has. I always thought hong bao is only used in Malaysia, but it seems it is getting more widely used in modern day Singapore, Taiwan and China as well. I think the original name for this “little bits of money in a red packet” is called 压岁钱 ya sui qian. The reason we call it hong bao is because, well, they come in red packets, and hong = red, bao = packet.
So what is the purpose of 压岁钱? Well, if we translate directly, it is 钱 money given to people to 压岁 hold the year. Hold as in, hold the fort. I guess it is a bit difficult to explain the literal translation, so let’s just say, it is more auspicious to start the year on a good note, and receiving money is sort of a good note. That’s why people give angpows during Chinese New Year, giving angpow to someone is like giving security to someone so that he can go from strength to strength from here on out for the rest of the year.
But I have to admit, I don’t know why only singles and kids should receive angpows, and married couples should be on the giving end. Or maybe this is just a Malaysian practice. Not that I am complaining. At least, not yet, not for the next couple of years I mean. (Mom: Next couple of years?! Get married within this year!)
What do we do with the angpow money that we get?
It really depends. Each family, each kids are different. But generally, if you are a toddler up till when you are a primary school student, usually the money goes to the mom for safekeeping or “safekeeping”. In my case, my mom deposits those money into my bank account. But I have heard stories of kids whose moms feigned ignorance of those early years’ “safekeeping”s.
Then as we grow older, we began to learn more practical knowledge of the world. For example, about financial management, about the importance of investing to grow our money. Chinese New Year is an especially good time to learn about the various investment tools, tools like Poker or Blackjack or Baccarat or even BigBig2. We used our “capitals” to invest in various “endeavors”, and we will be given opportunities for practical application in various investment theories, most notably the theory of the bigger the risk, the bigger the potential returns.
Once we make big bucks from our various investments, then we go on a spending spree. It is usually a good practice to treat everyone who lost money in the same investments as you to a nice meal. So actually, the restaurateurs are the biggest winners regardless of who wins in those games of investments.
I hope I have been informative with my explanations of what angpow is, and how we utilize our angpow money. 😀