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Arts Culture Ang Pao Etiquette: The Dos And Don'ts

Ang Pao Etiquette: The Dos And Don'ts

Ang Pao Etiquette: The Dos And Don'ts
By Natasha Tang
February 06, 2019
While most of the ang pao you find will be red, feel free to have fun with the more colourful envelopes available.


To some, giving and receiving ang pao may be second nature, but to others, especially those newer to the custom, it can be a source of stress as there is a certain lai see code of conduct that should be respected.

To help you avoid any social faux-pas, we have put together a quick do’s and don’ts list to ensure that you breeze through Chinese New Year gaffe-free.

 1. Two Hands & The "Big To Small" Rule 


Photo: Natasha Tang/Hong Kong Tatler

  • Do not give or receive ang pao with just one hand.
  • Do hold the red envelope with two hands when giving and receiving.
  • Do not have your children give ang pao to anyone.
  • Do follow the big to small or senior to junior rule. For example: parents to kids, boss to employees and married couples to single, younger relatives.

2. Single Bills & Lucky Numbers Only


Photo: Natasha Tang/Hong Kong Tatler

  • Do not give multiple notes in one packet.
  • Do give either a single bill or two packets with one bill each.
  • Do not give increments of four or odd numbers.
  • Do keep the amount to even numbers. The number 4 is considered an unlucky number as it sounds like the Chinese word for “death”.

3. Be Neat & Organised


Photo: Natasha Tang/Hong Kong Tatler

  • Do not give coins or crumpled up notes.
  • Do give a crisp bill fresh from the bank. We suggest going to the bank a few days early to avoid last-minute queues.
  • Do not check the amount in front of the receiver before giving it to him/her.
  • Do have the different denominations housed in differently designed packets. Amounts will vary depending on how well you are acquainted with the receiver so staying organised will make it easy for you to know exactly how much you are giving.

4.No Peeking & Be On-Time


Photo: Natasha Tang/Hong Kong Tatler

  • Do not open your ang pao in front of the person giving it to you.
  • Do wait until he or she leaves to open your packet. Opening it in front of them will make you seem too eager to see how much you received.
  • Do not give your ang pao after Chinese New Year celebrations.
  • Do start giving ang pao on the first day of the Lunar New Year and finish on the 15th day

(See also: Tatler Wishlist: Jim Thompson's CNY Collection)


Arts & Culture etiquette culture ChineseNewYear Tradition LunarNewYear ang pao


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