Lucky ang bao amounts for 2018 based on one's zodiac sign

Red packets for Chinese New Year. Photo: Getty Images.
Red packets for Chinese New Year. Photo: Getty Images.

By David Sun and Ben Nadarajan, Contributors

As the final touches go into Chinese New Year preparations, many – from newlyweds to grandparents – are trying to figure out how much should go into those lucky red packets.

Grand Master Tan Khoon Yong from Way Fengshui Group suggests going with the auspicious numbers associated with the various animals of the Chinese zodiac this Year of the Dog (see table).

The lucky numbers this year for a person born in the Year of the Rooster or Ox, for instance, are 2 and 6, so $26 or $62, or even $2 or $6, would be auspicious.

Tan does point to a few exceptions. Those born in the Dog Year have 4 and 7 as their lucky numbers, but some dialect groups consider 4 to be inauspicious since it sounds like the Chinese word for “death”, and even numbers are considered more auspicious than odd ones.

In that case, Tan suggests playing it safe and going with $8, $18 or $88, since 8 has long been regarded the luckiest number in Chinese culture. Its pronunciation, ba, sounds similar to fa, which means prosperity and success.

Source: Way Fengshui Group
Source: Way Fengshui Group

Other factors may determine how much you give someone, such as whether the recipient is a family member or a friend’s child; whether you should give more based on the recipients’ needs or stick with a standard amount for all; or even whether the eldest child in the family should get more.

Associate Professor Tan Ern Ser from the National University of Singapore’s Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences, who teaches sociology, also suggests that the lowest amount for ang baos these days is $4 or $6.

Still, various factors affect actual amounts given. Not everyone benefits equally from a positive economic climate, and things like social status and who the recipient is also come into play, he says.

The long-accepted minimum in a red packet is $2, particularly in downturns.

Geomancer Cecil Lee says that there is no pressure to follow suggested rates or numbers, reassuring that, ultimately, “it’s the thought that counts”.

“It’s more meaningful to give within one’s means,” Lee adds.

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