The money seems to vanish from our hands. It goes away. Is transformed. Goes up in smoke. We could say that this sensation is what each one of us experiences when we look at the bottom of our pockets and find less and less.
Burning money to honor ancestors
There is a tradition of burning money in honor of ancestors. It is a deeply rooted custom in Eastern societies, especially Chinese and Vietnamese.
Ancestor veneration or prayers to ancestors is a practice based on the belief that deceased relatives live an existence beyond the physical, are concerned with the affairs of their family and can influence the fortunes of the living.
This custom knows no discrimination by social class, profession, or wealth. Social practice in addition to the religious ones is to honor the ancestors and try to ensure a good future.
Paper ghost or devil’s paper
It is here where the ghost or devil’s paper participates.
These are small sheets of paper that imitate common banknotes and are burned during the practice of the cult of the dead, funerals and ceremonies.
The ghost paper is traditionally made from bamboo or rice fiber and is decorated with images, seals and words that call for fortune.
In recent times, modernity has permeated even the most ancient traditions and so you can find ghost paper in the shape of credit cards or checks as well as paper samples of what we hope to receive with the help of the deceased: cars, houses, servants, women, telephones, boats, etc.
According to the area, the offerings change their shape
But the meaning remains the same.
In the region where there is more Cantonese population, the traditional model of Joss paper is the most “burned”, however, it is very rare in Taiwan or Macao where gold paper is usually offered: sheets of golden paper that are folded into small ingots before being thrown into the flames.
The burning of ghost paper is the last act of Chinese ceremonies in honor of their gods and ancestors.
In the vicinity of Chinese temples, an offering set is sold that includes incense sticks, candles, ghost paper (both traditional and “gold”) and a small piece of food.