The Hungry Ghost Festival, celebrated on the 15th night of the seventh month in the lunar calendar, marks the highlight of the Ghost Month. According to Chinese traditions, the Ghost Month is a time when the gates of the afterlife open, allowing spirits to roam the Earth.
Throughout this month, various rituals and practices are observed to honor the deceased and appease wandering spirits. Adhering to these traditions and customs, especially the things you should avoid, is crucial not just on the festival day but throughout the Chinese Ghost Month. It's not only a sign of respect but also a way to ensure peace and harmony with the spiritual world.
In 2023, the Ghost Month begins on August 16, with the Hungry Ghost Festival occurring at the month's end. Here's how to prevent the ghosts from causing mischief during the Chinese Ghost Festival.
1. Observe Clothing and Appearance
During the Hungry Ghost Month, clothing and appearance take on special significance.
- Avoid Hanging Clothes Outside Overnight. It's believed that spirits might wear them, leading to unsettling encounters.
- Avoid Wearing Black or Red. These colors are thought to attract spirits, and wearing them might bring unwanted attention.
- Women Should Avoid High Heels. The sound of high heels is said to attract spirits. If your feet are elevated, it is also believed that you’re easier to get possessed.
2. Avoid These Behavior and Activities
In Chinese culture, people avoid certain behaviors and activities to ensure harmony with the spiritual realm. Here are some key guidelines to observe.
- Avoid Standing Close to Walls. Spirits are believed to lurk near walls, especially during the night. Keeping a distance is a precautionary measure.
- Do Not Touch or Step Over Roadside Offerings. These offerings are made to appease the spirits. Disturbing them is seen as a sign of disrespect.
- Avoid Looking Under Prayer Altars. Peeking under these sacred spaces is considered highly disrespectful to the spirits and the ancestors being honored.
- Stay Away from Large Bodies of Water. Lakes, rivers, and seas are believed to be places where spirits reside. We advise you to avoid these areas, especially at night.
- Avoid Making Big Decisions. It's believed that spirits can influence one's decisions during this month, leading to unfavorable outcomes.
- Do Not Pick Up Coins Found on Streets. Coins or other small objects found on the streets might be offerings or belongings of spirits. Picking them up could bring bad luck.
3. Watch Out Your Timing and Locations
The Ghost Month also brings with it specific guidelines related to timing and locations to ensure safety and respect for the spirits.
- Avoid Staying Out Late. The night is when spirits are most active. It's advisable to return home early to avoid encounters.
- Do Not Take the Last Bus or Train Ride. Late-night public transports might have spirits as passengers. It's best to avoid the last rides.
- Avoid Sitting on Front Row at Getai Performances. The front rows are often reserved for spirits to enjoy the performances during live stages.
4. Be Cautious of Your Home and Environment
Our homes and immediate environments also require certain precautions during the Ghost Festival.
- Do Not Kill Insects Entering Your House. Insects, especially those that appear suddenly, might be spirits in disguise. It's best to gently guide them out.
- Avoid Looking Out Windows During Offerings. When neighbors or community members make offerings, it's respectful to give them privacy and not watch from windows or balconies.
- Avoid Placing Wind Chimes Near Your Bed. The sound of wind chimes can attract spirits into your room and may cause nightmares.
How is the Hungry Ghost Festival celebrated?
The Hungry Ghost Festival celebrations are marked by various rituals and customs to honor the spirits and ensure their well-being. Here's how the festival is traditionally celebrated:
- Burning of Joss Paper. Families burn joss paper, often resembling money or other valuables, as offerings to the spirits. This is believed to provide the deceased with resources in the afterlife.
- Food Offerings. Dishes are prepared and offered to the spirits. These offerings are usually placed on altars or outside homes to appease wandering souls.
- Incense Burning. Incense sticks are lit at altars and temples as a gesture of respect and to guide spirits.
- Street Performances. Getai performances, which include singing, dancing, and theatrical shows, are held. These are believed to entertain the spirits.
- Releasing of Lanterns. Lanterns are set afloat on water bodies or released into the sky, symbolizing the guiding of spirits back to the afterlife.
- Prayers and Chants. Special prayers and chants are conducted in temples to honor the ancestors and seek blessings.
By engaging in these rituals and celebrations, communities come together to show reverence to the spirits and ensure harmony between the living and the spiritual realms.
How to Attract Luck During the Hungry Ghost Month
The Hungry Ghost Month, while traditionally a time of caution and reverence, also offers opportunities to attract positive energies and luck. Here are some ways to ensure good fortune during this period:
- Wear Protective Charms: One of the most common practices is wearing protective charms or amulets. These charms, often blessed by monks or spiritual leaders, serve as a shield against negative energies. They can be worn as necklaces, bracelets, or even kept in pockets.
- Light Red Candles: Red is considered a powerful color in many Asian cultures. Lighting red candles at home can ward off bad spirits and invite positive vibes.
- Offer Fresh Flowers: Placing fresh flowers at your home altar or entrance can attract good spirits and positive energy. White and yellow flowers are particularly favored.
- Play Uplifting Music: Soft, uplifting music can create a positive atmosphere, keeping away any negative energies that might be lurking.
- Maintain Cleanliness: Keeping your home clean and clutter-free is believed to repel negative spirits and attract good fortune.
- Practice Kindness: Acts of kindness, charity, and generosity, especially during this month, can attract positive karma and luck.
By incorporating these practices, you can not only navigate the Hungry Ghost Month safely but also attract luck and positive energies into your life.
The Hungry Ghost Festival is more than just a cultural event; it's a time-honored tradition that bridges the living with the spiritual realm. Following the customs and guidelines associated with this festival is vital, not just out of respect for the spirits but also to maintain harmony in our daily lives.
By understanding and respecting these traditions, we not only honor our ancestors and the wandering spirits but also ensure a peaceful coexistence with the unseen world. It's a beautiful testament to the depth and richness of cultural heritage that continues to guide and shape our lives today.