Events · Tradition

Hungry Ghost Festival (中元節): Ghost day offering

On the 7th month of the Chinese calendar, some Asian countries hold the traditional Hungry Ghost Festival. The 7th month is known as the Ghost Month (鬼月) while the 15th day of the 7th month is called the Ghost Day. It is said that on this day, the gates of heaven and hell are opened up and ghosts, including your ancestors, wander around the realm of the living. To appease the wandering ghosts, a large feast is laid out for them. Prayers are offered and hell money, paper clothes, cars, houses, appliances, etc are also burned to please the ghosts. These items are believed to have value in the afterlife. (e.g. Better burn a nice looking paper car for your ancestors!)

Notes about the ghost month and ghost day offering from my mother as taught to her by her mother as taught to her….:

  • If you start doing the offering ritual in your house, you have to do this every year. You do not want to offend the wandering spirits next year when they visit and there’s no food on the table.
  • When offering prayers, don’t call them “ghost” or 鬼; call them “good brother” or 好兄弟 instead.
  • There should be an odd number of food variants. The type of food doesn’t matter, the ghosts will understand.
  • Don’t eat the food on the offering table while the incense is still burning. Wait until the ghosts have finished eating.
  • Food offerings spoil easily because they have been touched by the ghosts.
  • During the ghost month, avoid wandering around at night, swimming, and celebrating happy events. (e.g. engagement, wedding, moving into new house, etc)

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