Chinese New Year – An Ancient Conspiracy

CNY-angpowThe Population White Paper, the whole Marriage and Parenthood package revisions and Chinese New Year (CNY); to the Blogfather, there is no better time to kvetch about what I feel has to be the most well-devised conspiracy theory in the history of Chinese tradition and family values.

I always believed that the principles behind the Chinese New Year red packet tradition to be a cunning scheme to boost the TFR (total fertility rate, for those who haven’t been reading the papers the last few months) of Chinese families. The rules are as follows:

  1. No matter how young or how old, if you’re single, you get a red packet from any couple who’s married (in true tradition, it goes as far as one red packet per married person, but in our current economic state, we have to cut costs and treat couples as a single unit now).
  2. As long as you’re married, you give a red packet to any single person you come across (certain communities will allow a one-year grace for newlyweds, so if you’re celebrating your first CNY as a married couple, you’re excused, but the jury’s still out on whether you can still collect).
  3. There’s an ang pow index to take note of too, (Susan of A Juggling Mom has the rate card on her blog), so you know people take this whole ang pow thing damn seriously, okay?

By permutating rules 1 and 2, most of us will have figured out how the whole “make-more-babies” strategy works. It’s all fine and good if you’re single, but your parents have to fork out in your stead. Then you fall in love, decide he or she is THE ONE, and announce to the whole world you’re getting hitched. As a Chinese couple, your traditional wedding ritual (mainly the big-ass 8-course Chinese wedding dinner involving your 500 friends, families and a handful of people who might have just invited themselves) is your last chance at collecting red packets for profit, so you know you got to make it count. Because the moment you pass the traditional wedding threshold, that’s when the whole trouble starts.

Childless couples stand to lose the most. With no kids to make back what you’re giving out, Chinese New Year becomes a choice of whether you will give away money to build and maintain your various familial and social circles, or spend that money on a trip to anywhere but here for the next 15 days just to avoid the confrontation.

Couples with one child also perspire, particularly if you follow the AIA rate card standards encounter friends or extended family who have more children than you (and I think the parents-of-one among us are beginning to feel the diseconomies of scale here as our friends start multiplying themselves with increasing efficiency).

But regardless of whether that AIA ang pow rate card exists, every red packet you receive is a gamble. I’ve personally received limited edition $2 phone cards back in my day, and while those were useful for my National Service “call girlfriend” nights, it’s really not as far-reaching as money, is it? Other times I’ve gotten big tippers that like blue (or even yellow), and their contribution can last me maybe a couple of months of school recesses. (And interestingly, I don’t remember my own parents ever asking me to cough up my annual CNY earnings).

So people, have more kids. If not for the government incentives, it makes your annual CNY celebrations a little less painful.

To everyone reading this, ?????and more importantly, ????! You’ll seriously need them.

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