To Give and to Receive

By Christina Kim - March 03, 2015


I was surprised last week when I walked into my manager’s room for a discussion and then he got up, and took out the mandarin oranges from the box, handing a pair to both my colleague and me who were in the discussion with him.

If the mandarin oranges were a sight, imagine my expression when my manager took out red packets, and handed it over to us as well.
Now, if you are familiar with Chinese customs, typically red packets (or ang pows as they are fondly known) are only given to unmarried people and it is always the married people who will be handing them out (yes, even elders, and they must be married). It is a law set for generations, making it part of the customary traditions observed in this festive celebration.

Both my colleagues are married (not to each other I mean), and we were pleasantly surprised; if not shocked, by this little unexpected gesture sprung upon us.
While it may be the custom that only unmarried people receive angpows, managers do give angpows to their subordinates (and even some companies are incorporating this practice to reward their employees or just to partake in the merry festive celebrations), though it is not compulsory.

The next little thing which flipped me, was these words uttered, “Do not mind the amount in the red packet too, it’s just for fun”

Given, my manager is not a Chinese guy by birth, though he is surrounded by Chinese among his family, friends and relatives, and that very fact makes it even more heart-warming that he made the effort to keep his staffs happy.

Happy we definitely are, and it was quite astonishing when both my colleague and I replied, in complete unison, “It’s not about the amount of money in the ang pow”

Yes, it truly is not.

Many have taken the notion of giving and receiving the ang pows in a rather unorthodox way, yet at the same time, insisting on following the tradition of the ang pow.

The spirit of giving, And receiving has taken on a rather interesting twist in my opinion as I have observed over the years.

The givers worry about the amount that they are inserting into the ang pow packets, and at the same time, they also dwell on the extent of the damage on their bank accounts as they make mental calculations and work out a proper financial plan; with estimates to minimize loss and balance their profit.
For those with children, they could strike a more well-balanced margin, or so they say, as their giving is also compensated with their receiving in the amount given to their children (by others).

The receivers, on the other hand, are excited to be getting the ang pows, definitely but they are also often obsessing over the amount inside the ang pows received. 
Expectations are raised in the frenzy of receiving and many hope to maximize their gains as much as possible; in the 15 days of the festive celebration.
The whole scenario injects a totally different and interesting perspective into the tradition altogether; as a simple festive tradition turns into a financial trading business.

The simplicity of giving and receiving turns complicated and even takes on a competitive twist as there are parties who will even go to the extent of outbidding each other in the ang pows they give out (the amount of pocket money) and strive to be perceived as superior in their generosity.
Then there are those who contribute and further motivate such competition; especially the recipients who will then unwrap and compare the amount of money they received from the giving parties.
They will also compare the “earnings” accumulated from all the ang pows throughout the festive period.

Money becomes the central focus in the entire tradition, which started out as an exchange of kindness and warmth, to cultivate harmony and good relationships.

Gift giving is always celebrated as one with thought, and it is the meaning of the gift that should be regarded rather than the monetary value or weight of the gift itself.

To give is to show our love and affection, and the depth of our care for the recipient.
Even if it is for strangers, it is still about our well-wishes and that we hope for their well-being.

To receive is to acknowledge the lovely thought that one is on the mind and in the heart of the giver.

Many would think that receiving is the winning party; but there is no such competition of any sort from the start. In fact, the greatest gift and the beauty of this entire exchange is in the giving rather than the receiving.

Look back at the earlier statement, as most would enjoy receiving, because it is about just handing out our hands to take in the gift.

To take it to a personal level, try this the next time you receive a gift.

Say Thank You as though you really mean it, and see the beauty in the gift rather than the value of the gift/amount in the ang pow.
Picture in your mind the action of the giver putting that amount into the ang pow packet, or the giver selecting a gift and paying for it at the counter.
Imagine you are the giver, and think of how you feel as you are about to give.
You will appreciate the gift as the recipient.
It may not be big; be it in size or value, but as you understand and let yourself think of the effort, you will learn to cherish the gift more.

The beauty of giving is not just for the sake of fulfilling a tradition.
It must always lie in the heart and in that effort to take that step.
It may be the tradition, but do NOT give if you do not feel like it, or if you do NOT want to.
It destroys that very heart of giving, and trust me when I say the recipient can feel the unwillingness or the reluctance in the giver when they receive the gift.

Be it festive season or just for that special occasion, the art of gift giving and receiving should not be treated with distortion and that it is merely to fulfill an obligation.

No one is obliged to give or receive.

If you are to give, do it because you want to and not grudgingly.
If you are to receive, remember that it is not about the value or the size, but rather the thought and kindness of the giver.

Do not be misled by the luxuries of expensive gifts and fat ang pows, they are just materials.

The spirit of giving and receiving lies, in all, the Heart itself.

Give with Love, and Receive with a Smile and be Filled by the Love J

Keep this in mind, and you will start to see the beauty of this exchange and even cherish the warmth brought by the festivities itself.

Enjoy the remaining days of the Chinese New Year celebration! 


  • Share:

You Might Also Like