A Guide to Giving Funeral Gifts to a Chinese Family in SG
While it’s not required, giving gifts to a grieving family is a thoughtful gesture, especially if you’re not around to attend the wake or funeral. This practice is especially common among the Chinese community, where gift giving is deeply rooted in tradition.
So, if you find yourself attending a Chinese funeral eventually, be sure to refer to this quick guide of the do’s and don’ts of giving funeral gifts to a Chinese family in Singapore.
- Give cash
Whether you’re attending a Buddhist or Taoist funeral, giving of “pek kim” or bereavement money is a common practice in Singapore. This money is given to the family to help cover some funeral expenses.
While there’s no minimum amount you can give, the standard amount is $30. It’s ideal to give an amount in odd denominations, placed in a white envelope.
You may give this to any family member present in the wake or funeral, or you can simply drop it in the donation box during the wake.
- Give flowers
If you’re unable to give cash, it’s perfectly acceptable to give sympathy flowers too. In Chinese funerals, it’s customary to give a mix of white and yellow flower combinations, ideally chrysanthemums or mums, lilies, and roses.
On the other hand, it’s best to give purely white flowers to Chinese-Christian or Catholic families. You can mix different types of flowers like mums, lilies, carnations, roses, among others.
There are also different types of arrangements available including condolence flower stands, funeral sprays, and condolence wreaths. Any of these arrangements are suitable for the occasion.
- Give joss paper or paper objects
In case you’re not familiar with Chinese culture, burning joss paper and paper crafts is an important ritual that the deceased’s family members take part in during or after the burial or cremation.
Joss paper comes in different forms including money, a house, a car, clothes, among others. It’s believed that burning these paper crafts will provide the deceased with their necessities in the afterlife.
In most cases, the family of the deceased is responsible for purchasing these paper crafts, but it’s also acceptable to give joss paper to the grieving family as a gift.
- Avoid giving money/gifts in sets of four
If you’re thinking about giving “pek kim,” be sure to avoid giving an amount in multiples or denominations of four. In Chinese, the number four (四, sì) is considered unlucky since it sounds a lot like the word for death (死, sǐ).
Hence, be sure to avoid any amount with the number four in it because this can offend the bereaved family. This also applies to other gifts like fruit baskets. Make sure to avoid giving anything in four sets.
- Avoid giving anything in red
In Chinese culture, the colour red represents happiness. This is why this colour is generally reserved for celebratory occasions like birthdays and weddings.
That said, giving any present in red (especially flowers) is also considered offensive, so be sure to avoid that.