Cash as a gift in Asian households

When I was young, I always thought it was a bit odd that family members, other than my aunt who lavished gifts on me constantly, always gave me cash as gifts. It didn’t matter if it was Christmas, my birthday, or Chinese New Year (well, Chinese New Year is always cash…), but I always just expected to get cash. In my white friends’ and more Americanized Asian friends’ homes, everyone always gave… you know, real physical gifts as presents. They’d choose a shirt, a sweater, a piece of jewelry, a toy… something that they thought the receiver would like and appreciate. I always wondered why my parents didn’t take the time to think about some thing that I could potentially like and give it to me.

Looking back now as a thirty-something adult, I realize that this thought was truly immature and lacking perspective. I had no idea how good I had it then… at all. As an adult, I am still, until this day, given cash by my mom and my dad. My dad would just give it to me (he’s a man of few words, just actions, as you can tell). And my mom would just say, “Well, I don’t know exactly what you like, so you can choose something you like when you want.” It is such a privilege to be given… MONEY. PERIOD. It gives you freedom to do what you wish with it – spend it on something you know for sure you will like and appreciate (or need… hello, groceries and bills?!); save it for a rainy day; invest it to make the money grow. It is a privilege to have family and friends of enough means who actually are capable of giving you money. I don’t know who you are as you are reading this, but how many times have you received an actual gift that you thought was absolutely hideous, or just didn’t fit what you wanted or needed at that time? Isn’t that pretty much all of us? Doesn’t that high potential end up leading to a lot of wasted time, money, and actual objects that would ultimately get wasted and likely thrown into a land fill?

But money? Money never fails. It can always be used. No one will ever throw it away.

I thought of this today as I received a check in the mail from my dad for Christmas. He wrote a short but sweet note, wishing us a merry Christmas in New York. I haven’t seen my parents for Christmas since 2011, but it hasn’t been a big deal since my parents don’t really celebrate Christmas anymore with my mom being a JW. Plus, since 2013, I’ve been coming home at least three times every year. For some reason, this time when I received this gift, I just felt a little empty. I definitely do appreciate the gift. But it made me wonder when I’d actually see my parents in person again with this looming virus and no end of this pandemic in sight.

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