Saturday, November 27, 2010

Burn, paper, burn.

After the theatre lights had dimmed and the tourists had left, several shopkeepers gathered in front of the puppet theatre and started praying by a makeshift altar right there on the sidewalk. I didn't want to intrude into the solemn activity, so I hung back as they burned incense sticks and paper money. Just as I thought that they were finishing up, I was shocked to see them set a papier-mache horse on fire! That one I caught on camera (with their permission).

One of the participants in the ceremony explained to me (non-verbal communication trumped language once again!) that what I have witnessed was a prayer for happiness and for prosperity in their businesses. It was fascinating to watch the ceremony because it's so different from the culture I grew up in. The incense sticks burning on the altar were certainly familiar; I've seen them amid the fresh fruit and the flower offerings in cemeteries back home with significant Chinese portions...

Hmm. The prayers and the offerings I have seen must also be a way of sending these earthly materials to their dead relatives. Just a thought: All Souls' Day was celebrated the week before we flew to Hanoi.