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Votive Offering – paper offering

Young Vietnamese boy helps his Dad burn votive offerings - sending money (not real money), Hanoi, Vietnam
Young Vietnamese boy helps his Dad burn votive offerings – sending money (not real money).

If your loved one has already passed on, you have an opportunity to send them items that they might have loved in their life here on earth (and will probably need in their afterlife). This is done by purchasing model paper items called ‘votive paper offerings’. Then you burn them, which is considered a direct line to your loved one. Items such as: cars, money (called ‘ghost money’), gold, fans, motorbikes, houses, bicycles, clothing, watches, makeup, necklaces, mobile phones, computers, cars, horses, dogs, TV’s etc are all available.

Simple items to intricate imitations are priced between VND15,000 to VND3-4million (78cents to $178).  Hang Ma Street in Hanoi is one place to go for these items plus other festival products, including lanterns, toys, incense, candles, wrapping papers etc. But other shops are dotted around town, and in pre- festival season, many other vendors sell them.

I am not sure how they know this, but it is said that Vietnamese burn about 50,000 tonnes of these paper items annually.

Fire places to burn the votive's (paper offerings) -in the past clothes, shoes, glasses, hat, umbrella, traditional dress; and of course money and gold. Now they will send houses, servant, car, mobile phone, motorbike etc; Hanoi, Vietnam.
Fire places to burn the votive’s (paper offerings) -in the past clothes, shoes, glasses, hat, umbrella, traditional dress; and of course money and gold. Now they will send houses, servant, car, mobile phone, motorbike etc.

Some Vietnamese have considered this practice bad for the environment, but this thinking is not the norm. The time to make this offering to your loved one is on the anniversary of their death, during ‘Tet’ (Lunar New Year), other festivals, on the 01st and 15th of the lunar month; and also preparing to move house or begin construction. Then it is to please the spirits by thanking them, and to ensure that they continually support the move or building project.

Introduced to Vietnam during the 1,000 year long Chinese occupation nearly three thousand years ago, this custom is totally entwined in their culture and entrenched in their daily lives.  Out on the streets you can see people burning these offerings of money and other items depending on the date.

In the Vietnamese New Year (Lunar New Year -Tet), votive offerings in the shape of clothes, hats and shoes are offered to the Kitchen Gods. This is done on the 23rd day of the 12th lunar month in a ritual  that reports to the Heaven King and in return a new message from the King is sent to the households.

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