The Hungry Ghost Festival
Halloween has become such a favorite holiday in the U.S. that many people are surprised to learn that countries in the East do not celebrate Halloween. However, in China there is the Hungry Ghost Festival, a time when ghosts and spirits of ancestors may pay a visit. Ghosts are so popular and revered that the Chinese don’t just have one day – there is a whole ghost month! Just as the Western festival focuses on ghosts and ghouls (and tons of candy), the Eastern celebration is about the departed spirits of the underworld. In addition to China, the celebration occurs Singapore, Malaysia and other countries. This year, Ghost Month has already past; it was from Aug. 17th – Sept. 15th. Actual Ghost Day was August 31st.
The Chinese believe that during this period, wandering spirits are unleashed from the gates of hell and return to earth in search for their loved ones and maybe even to seek revenge if they were wronged. These ghosts are referred to as “hungry” because they have been imprisoned in hell and are hungry and poor. The story goes that these souls are angered by their abandonment and seek to punish the living.
To satisfy the spirits and ward off bad luck, the Chinese celebrate The Feasts of the Hungry Ghosts to remember their dead family members and pay tribute to them. This is an attempt to make the angry spirits feel welcome and to subdue their antagonistic feelings. The living people leave offerings of large meals at alters; they pray; and they burn incense, all to appease the spirits. Children are also advised to return home early and not to wander around alone at night because they might be possessed by the roving ghosts.