This is our first Chinese New Year as a married couple. I remember in 2013 I turned up heavily pregnant at Irene’s Grandma’s place. No one knew what to say and I still got my ang baos anyway. Last year there were no more ang baos for Irene and myself. All our ang baos went to Zoey and we had to give some in return to the kids of our cousins and friends. Even though we weren’t married, it felt like an obligation that we return the good wishes Zoey received.
This year, we can’t use that excuse again as we got married in December and with that came a new set of problems – to give or not to give?
There issn’t really an ang bao rulebook we can refer to (if there is, can someone please share?) It seems every family has their own tradition and standards. Last year we had given ang baos only to children of our friends and cousins plus the occasional younger cousin who is still studying. This year we followed the same rule and it turned out we were wrong! We had neglected to give ang baos to a pair of not-so-young-working cousins whose father had given Zoey an ang bao. This issue did not come up last year as our paths had not cross then. It was only after they had left, and we were discussing it with my mother-in-law, did it surface that we are meant to return the ang baos if the uncle had given Zoey one.
So later in the day, while we were at my uncle’s home, we met their neighbours and their newborn baby. Since the neighbours had come from next door, they came armed with just 2 ang baos for my cousin’s children. Knowing they would feel obligated to give an ang bao to Zoey, the surprise child in this visit, I opted not to give the baby an ang bao so they wouldn’t have to feel bad about not having a spare ang bao on hand for Zoey. Turns out I was wrong again! They went home and came back later with an ang bao for Zoey, so I ended up giving them an ang bao for their son then. So Awkward!
All in all, this yearly ang bao exchange proved to be more complex than I expected and it has only been our first day of visiting. There are more days to come in the next 2 weeks. I think we shall come up with our own set of rules and ignore what is expected as the social norms.
We don’t like to be normal anyway.
Happy Chinese New Year from The Chiongs!
May this year be filled with much prosperity, good health, happiness and wealth for everyone. Remember to enjoy life and look for the bright side in every situation. Life is a lot more fun when you can smile even when it’s an “oppps” moment.