Money for Ghosts

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American/Chinese/Japanese
Age: 21
Occupation: Student
Residence:
Date of Performance/Collection:
Primary Language:
Other Language(s):

Description: On certain days, people will burn fake paper money next to the bonfire as a way to give the dead fortune in their afterlife.

Background: The ritual is something that the informants family frequently practices.

Transcript:

ML: So you know about the burning money for the dead right?

Me: Yes, but tell me how your family does it.

ML: I think most people do it in the same way. You go outdoors and they would usually have a metal basket thing that you light the fire in. Then your parents would give you paper and say that it’s money for people in the afterlife and stuff. Then you just burn the paper in the fire.

My thoughts:

This ritual is something that I know well. For my family, we would sometimes say prayers for the people in the afterlife, things like wishing them well and things like hoping they put the spirit money we give them to good use. The basket part is most likely for safety and cleanliness. I would assume ashes from a bonfire would be very harmful or at least a pain to clean without a container for it. The ritual is a way for people to both remember and come to terms with the loss of a loved one. There is also the component of wishing the departed well in the afterlife having belief in that there is an afterlife.