The University of Toronto has apologized to students who mistakenly received “hell money,” a form of joss paper, during the recent Lunar New Year celebrations.
The move caused controversy among some Asian students, who regarded receiving hell money for Lunar New Year as a sign of bad luck and inauspiciousness.
The ritualistic money is burned by grieving families as an offering to deities and deceased ancestors in the afterlife.
According to a statement from the university, the non-legal-tender banknotes were unintentionally placed into red envelopes, which are typically filled with real money and handed out for good luck and prosperity during Lunar New Year.
“The university is deeply committed to the principles of equity, diversity and inclusion and will continue its effort to educate the school community to learn and embrace the cultural diversity among them and to deepen the sense of inclusivity and belonging across our three campuses,” reads the statement.
Not unique to Asian culture, monetary offerings have been used throughout history – including in the Roman Empire – to finance the dead’s passage through the underworld.