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What's the story behind the Hungry Ghost Festival?

Is it Halloween already? 

Not it isn’t. 

But in Asia, a celebration very similar to it is about to take place. It’s called the Hungry Ghost Festival and it’s happening on September 15. It is the day when the souls of the dead are believed to roam the earth.

According to tradition, Chinese people try to appease these restless spirits because they get into a lot of mischief if ignored. So, offerings of every kind are made,  particularly to those relatives who have passed on. This tradition is closely linked to the Chinese practice of ancestor worship. 

Stacks of hell money, as well as paper offerings of cars, watches and jewelry are burned by relatives to comfort the deceased and let them know that their material needs are taken care of even in the afterlife. Food like rice, oranges or suckling pig are left out for them in metal bins scattered in the city. in case they get hungry. 

Entertainment also plays a role in the celebration. Dinners and auctions are held in central areas as well as Chinese operas and live stage performances featuring tales of gods and goddesses, comedy shows, and song and dance numbers. However that these performances are now modernized and feature LED panel lit stages, sexy performers and modern versions of English and Chinese hits. 

Here are a few Ghost Festival superstitions worth knowing :

  • Don’t swim after sunset. Spirits who drowned will linger around bodies of water. They are said to be looking for someone to take their place so avoid bodies of water and cruises.
  • Don’t hurt insects. Moths, butterflies and grasshoppers who show up in your home may be a reincarnated relative. Don’t make them die twice! Instead move them outside gently. 
  • Hide those wind chimes. The sound of metal clanking may signal spirits that they are welcome in your home.
  • Observe curfew. Be home by sunset because that’s when the spirits are the strongest. And always wash your feet right after you come home.
  • Don’t hang your clothes overnight. Spirits may like your sense of style and try them on and bring negative energy into your home.
  • Always close your umbrellas, especially red and black ones. Spirits may decide to take shelter under them. Wipe them dry, air them a bit, then close them asap.
  • Lay your chopsticks down flat. They not only look like joss sticks for the dead, but the  hungry spirits might think your food was an offering and take over your body to eat it.  
  • Keep your front door closed. Keep the spirits and their negative energy out of your home.

Happy ghosting!