May be you need to look at them differently


As Asians, we have always received one of those special envelops from our elders on special occasions. It is a custom followed in most Asian countries – elders give an envelop of cash to their younger generation as their blessings. It is known by different names in different countries –the  hóngbāo in China, pujogǔm in South Korea, Shūgi-bukuro in Japan and Eidi among Muslims.


While this custom has been followed since a very long time and children then bow before the elders, what does this custom truly signify? Is it only blessings in the form of cash or is it a lot more than that?


Could these cash envelops symbolize the passing of tradition from one generation to the next?


These gifts are typically presented on special occasions, like festivals when the traditional ways of cooking and rituals are followed. The traditional sweets are prepared, following the traditional methods of preparation. Certain rituals are performed. Prayers are offered to certain deities in a specific ritualistic manner. These are practices which have been handed down from generation to generation.


So, when we bow before our elders, are we simply accepting a cash envelop or are we accepting the traditions that they bequeath to us. Is it a gesture symbolizing the passing of the very culture which the elders painstakingly preserved through the years?


Perhaps it also symbolizes the acceptance of the past and the marking of a new beginning, reminding us to carry along the lessons and the good we learnt from our past as we march ahead towards a better future.


It could also be a reminder of how each elder from the family has something worth giving to us – a contribution to our growth. A reminder that they are ready to impart the years of knowledge and wisdom they have gained to the youth so they can grow beyond where the elders had reached.


Moreover, the cash within this envelop could also signify the care and effort with which the elderly have strived to pick the best for their children, grandchildren or great grandchildren. So, it is this good that they hope to pass to the next generation as they themselves move on with their journey of life.


When a cash envelop means so much more than blessings, you would perhaps be tempted to preserve these envelops each year to cherish as reminders of what our elders have given to us.


We hope the next envelop won’t look the same to you again.