Mortgage burning is a twentieth-century American custom that is the ritual burning of a paid off mortgage document by homeowners. It is done as a celebratory event, and is sometimes accompanied by a party in which extended family and friends are invited.
Home mortgage burnings, and particularly home mortgage burning parties, are nearly unheard of in the present-day United States for a few reasons. American families are increasingly mobile, so it is now much less likely that a homeowner will be in a home long enough to make enough monthly payments to fully satisfy a mortgage. Also, starting in the late twentieth century and until the housing bubble burst, it was fairly common to get an over-leveraged mortgage, and possibly even an interest-only mortgage, that was intended to eventually be flipped to another mortgage by presumed increasing home value as opposed paying it off via a long series of payments. That, and the refinancing of homes to take advantage of fluctuating interest rates, often leads to refinancing and “resetting the clock” on a mortgage period, lengthening the time that one is subject to a mortgage beyond the period of the original mortgage taken upon purchase of the home.
Even when a personal mortgage is paid off at the conclusion of payments, throwing a party to celebrate is now generally considered gauche since the traditional paying off of a mortgage is no longer a standard rite of passage. It is now seen as bragging about one’s secure financial condition. Modern advice columnists and etiquette experts generally advise against having mortgage burning parties attended by anyone other than immediate family.
In popular culture
The concept of a mortgage burning party was immortalized in a 1975 episode of All In The Family, “Mike Makes His Move”. Mortgage burnings were also the premise of a 1977 episode of Eight Is Enough, "Mortgage Burnin' Blues", and a 1982 episode of M*A*S*H, "Settling Debts".
- "Mortgage-Burning Parties Almost Extinct". NPR. 2009-07-03. Retrieved 2013-04-05.
- "Mortgage-Burning Parties Still Happen". Lancaster Online. 2012-07-25. Retrieved 2013-04-05.
- "Miss Manners: Modesty is the best party policy". Washington Post. 2010-09-11. Retrieved 2015-10-16.
- "COR Church Mortgage Burning Party". 2013-01-28. Retrieved 2013-04-07.
- "Mount Pisgah Baptist holds mortgage burning". 2013-04-01. Retrieved 2013-04-07.
- "All In The Family: Mike Makes His Move". 1975-03-08. Retrieved 2013-04-05.
- "Eight Is Enough Episodes on ABC". Retrieved 2013-04-14.
- "M*A*S*H Episode Guide". Retrieved 2013-04-14.