Students receive 'hell money' from University of Toronto dorm for Lunar New Year

The 'hell money' were put in red envelopes and placed in the common area.

Jean Chien Tay | February 05, 2022, 07:07 PM

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A graduate dormitory at the University of Toronto recently gave its students "hell money" in red envelopes on the first day of the Lunar New Year in what is a major cultural faux pas.

Staff at the dormitory placed red envelopes that contained "hell money", also known as joss paper, in the common area, according to a post on Reddit.

The Reddit user said the mistake was "unacceptable", as the paper notes in the envelopes literally have "hell bank note" printed on them.

The user also pointed out that the "hell money" is usually used during Qingming Festival, when people clean their ancestors' tombs and carry out prayers.

"Giving 'hell money' to a living person is a horrible act because you are conveying to the person that 'you are dead to me' or, worse, 'I wish you are dead,'" the user added.

User opined that Asian community was not consulted

Meanwhile, the Reddit user opined that the dormitory did not consult any of their Asian staff or students before handing out the "hell money", despite having "numerous" Asian student residents.

At the time of writing, the post has been "upvoted" more than 1,100 times and garnered 345 comments.

Multiple media outlets have also reported about the incident.

Dormitory and university issue apologies

In response to the incident, the dormitory issued an apology in an email to the residents, the university news site The Strand reported.

The dormitory claimed that they were "not aware of the inappropriate nature" of giving out joss paper during the Lunar New Year celebrations "until it was too late".

The dormitory further said it was not a "malicious attempt" and they only wanted to "create a festive atmosphere".

The University of Toronto also released an apology in Chinese via its official account on the popular Chinese messaging app WeChat.

The university said it was "deeply regretful" over the mistake, and has already retrieved all the red packets which contained the "hell money".

UK media outlet shared photos of Lunar New Year dish placed beside joss paper

In a similar incident that also involved joss paper, UK media outlet The Guardian was slammed on Twitter for featuring a Lunar New Year dish recipe alongside joss papers.

London-based reporter Vivienne Chow said she was "stunned" when she saw the photo, adding that The Guardian could message her to check if they were "unsure".

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Top image via r/UofT/Reddit & BDS Movement website