JAKARTA - For ethnic Chinese, the celebration of Chinese New Year is a big day to look forward to. Both the young and old ones are immersed in the lively Chinese New Year. Gathering with family is one of the options to celebrate the Chinese New Year. All will dissolve in the tightness of togetherness. On the sidelines, the most anticipated tradition emerged, which is giving out angpao (Red Envelope). This tradition complements the excitement of the Chinese New Year.
Angpao and the Chinese New Year are the embodiment of prosperity. The beginning of the tradition of giving away angpao has many versions. Giving away angpao originated from the legend of the eight gods who later turned themselves into coins.
This step was taken by the gods to help an elderly couple so that their sons would not be bothered by a demon named Sui. As revealed by the Singapore Infopedia page, the eight coins were then wrapped in red paper and placed under a pillow to ward off evil demons.
Afterward, the practice of putting coins on red paper and placing them under the pillow was adopted by the parents. Gradually, the habit became a tradition.
This tradition is known as "Ya Sui Qian" which means demon-slayer money. However, the term grew and was soon understood to become: money given to children by elders.
Not only that, but there is also another legend that tells of the origin of the tradition of giving away angpao. It is said that there was Emperor Xuangzong from the Tang Dynasty who was happy with the birth of his son.
Because of that, as an expression of joy, the emperor gave his concubine as a talisman to protect the baby with one gold and silver coin each. Unexpectedly, Emperor Xuangzong's way was adopted by the people at that time and started giving coins as gifts to their children.
The importance of angpao
Long story short, angpao on Chinese New Year has a special term, namely "Ya Sui." The term is defined as gifts given to children in connection with increasing age or changing of the year. Quoted from Tabloid Reformata in its report entitled Trinkets Around the Chinese New Year (2007), the tradition of giving away angpao emerged during the Ming and Qing Dynasties.
“In one literature about Ya Sui Qian, it is written that children use money to buy firecrackers and sweets. These actions also increased the circulation of money and the velocity of the economy in China at that time”, states the report.
Therefore, the Ya Sui tradition is closely related to symbols. Sui, in Ya Sui is defined as age, even has the same pronunciation as other Sui characters which means disaster.
So, Ya Sui can be symbolized as driving out or minimizing disasters. The hope is that every child who gets a Ya Sui prize will pass the next year safely, peacefully without significant obstacles.
Even so, the use of red envelopes only became known in the late 19th century. Along with that, the red envelope containing money then lasted with the term "Hongbao." In Hokkien it is called "ang pow."
Only then did the Indonesian-Chinese start to adopt it by calling and writing ang pow into angpao. The red color found in Angpao is also interpreted as a manifestation of goodness and prosperity in Chinese culture.
Moreover, red also symbolizes joy which will bring good fortune in the future. Those who give angpao are only married people, because they are considered adults.
Meanwhile, those who are adults but not married can still receive angpao. This is because angpao is also synonymous as a "symbol" to bring blessings, including a soulmate.
Even though angpao is more popularly distributed during Chinese New Year, actually angpao is not only present during Chinese New Year. Angpao is also a gift that must be given at important events, such as weddings, birthdays, and buying a new house. However, the angpao given should not be filled with the number four, because it is bad luck. And it can't be odd.
"(Angpao) is a tradition in which Chinese people who are married provide sustenance to their children and their parents. As well as the money in red packets to be distributed cannot be filled with the number four in it because the number four is considered unlucky".
"In Chinese the number four (si) sounds like the word 'die.' In addition, the amount of money given should not be odd because it is related to funerals, ”wrote Adiluhung Magazine in its report, The Origin of the Meaning of the Chinese New Year (2020).
Besides being positive, in some cases, the meaning of angpao is often associated with something negative. The behavior of government officials who since the Dutch colonial era often bribed bribes for political lobbying was the cause.
They often refer to the facilitation payments as angpao. Through the angpao, the seeds of corruption then spread to the detriment of the nation and state.
“…The important thing is to be an official first about ability and competence later. If you can hold a strategic position, you will repeatedly say astungkara. Unfortunately, when competitors compete quite a lot for positions, often the competition becomes crooked, no longer a basic achievement, but other efforts can be made, from clenic to angpao, as long as the illusion of hope becomes a reality", concluded I Nyoman Buditha S in the book Human, Religion, and Literature (2019).
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