Have You Heard Of The Money Burning Festival?

diagonalviewPublished: June 12, 2016Updated: July 1, 20165 views
Published: June 12, 2016Updated: July 1, 2016

Here in America, making money is a vital part of the American dream. You work hard, you make more, and people appreciate the effort you put in. All that hard work makes us value the money we earn even more. Some cultures, however, have a different view.

While Americans prefer to put their money in savings or invest their money in stocks, some people in Hanoi, Vietnam, people prefer to burn their money.

It may seem like a questionable retirement plan, but these people would disagree that they’ve invested their money poorly.

Vietnamese culture is heavily influenced by ancestor worship, which is the idea that one’s ancestors can influence life. Many Vietnamese make a strong effort to remember the family that came before them and to regularly perform rituals to honor and show respect to their ancestors.

One of these rituals is part of a festival of fire. In this video, worshippers are shown in Hanoi taking piles of cash and other objects and tossing them in the fire. The belief is that if living people burn these items, the smoke will carry the item to their deceased relatives and enrich them in the afterlife. These burnt offerings are viewed as a way to thank their ancestors for what they did in the past and to acknowledge their role in creating the family. For the Vietnamese, it is important to participate in these rituals on behalf of their family, and many people spend a lot of time and effort selecting specific items that they think a specific ancestor would enjoy. A beloved grandmother who always dressed well would get an offering of clothing or shoes, while a grandfather who loved telling stories would get some books. Other items that are commonly purchased for burnt offerings include flatscreen tvs, cell phones, and even cars.

Vietnam is not a wealthy country, however. So how can average folks afford to toss stacks of hundred dollar bills into the fire? That’s an easy one - the cash is fake.

The money and other items that are burned are made of paper, called Joss paper. This paper burns up easily and puts off a nice, white smoke that the Vietnamese believe contains the spirit of whatever they’ve burned. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons they refer to the fake money they burn as “ghost money” or “spirit money.”

While the burnings are not part of a festival on a specific day, most people burn their offerings at the end of the year in order to thank their ancestors and the saints for blessing their year. They also burn spirit money and items at the beginning of the year to ask for blessings in the upcoming year.

However we see this practice from the outside, it is obvious that the Vietnamese people get great satisfaction from giving these gifts to their deceased loved ones.

Plus, it probably helps prevent inflation.

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