Lunar New Year parade in central Thailand

The University of Toronto has come under fire for its extremely problematic Lunar New Year 'gifts'.

The school has faced backlash from student groups after they distributed Lunar New Year red packets to students and residents containing "hell money," which are incense paper notes meant for the dead.

The act of doing so is not only beyond disrespectful - but sometimes considered a death threat in Chinese culture.

Typically, red packets (or hongbao) are envelopes that are filled with money that are then given out during the Lunar New Year. These are also distributed on special occasions such as birthdays or weddings.

Hell notes, which are what the University passed out, are a fake currency that is meant to be burned as an offering of respect to one's dead relatives or ancestors. Giving them out to living persons is considered to be a curse or death threat.

So much so that according to theSouth China Morning Post, Hong Kong police arrested a former triad member and three other men in November on suspicion of sending hell notes to a prison officer.

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On February 4, the university issued an apology.

"Members of the University of Toronto Graduate House Team prepared a display to celebrate the Lunar New Year," read the spokesperson's statement.

"Unfortunately, incorrect banknotes were unintentionally placed into the red envelopes." According to the statement, staff hadn't realized their mistake until after the red envelopes were all taken.

But students are still rightfully angered and are demanding that the university take action for their mistake in an open letter signed by 32 student groups.

"The act of giving (hell money) to living people draws disdainful sentiments and sends them the message of 'you are dead to me' or even worse, 'I wish you were dead.' It is not only insulting, but heavily unacceptable," reads the letter.

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