Hungry Ghost Festival 2016

17 August 2016 by Jess O'Shea

Hungry Ghost Festival 2016

The Hungry Ghost Month (鬼月, Guǐ Yuè) is a traditional Buddhist and Taoist holiday held in Asian countries during the seventh lunar month. This is usually celebrated in August or September, depending on the lunar calendar.

The highlight of the month is the Hungry Ghost Festival, which this year is held on Wednesday 17th August.

Hungry Ghost Origami Boat

In celebration of Ghost Month We've provided you with all you need to make your own origami boat. As part of the Hungry Ghost Festival traditions includes, buying and releasing miniature paper boats and lanterns on water, which signifies giving directions to the lost ghosts and spirits of the ancestors and other deities.

Click here for the instructions and our own branded paper design

This ancient holiday holds a lot of value within Eastern countries as it has much cultural and historical significance.

The rules of Ghost Month!

Whilst the holiday focuses on celebration and honour, there are a few things that should be avoided during the Ghost Month and on Ghost Festival...

1. Don't stroll at night. 

2. Don't swim.It is said that the drowned evil spirits might try to harm you in order to find victims for them to rebirth.

3. As the month is considered to be inauspicious, don't move to new houses, start new businesses or marry.

4. Don't hang clothes outside at night as the ghosts may ‘wear’ the clothes and make living people ill when they wear the clothes again.

5. Do not step on or kick the offerings by the roadside. If you step by accident, you should apologize aloud to make it alright.

6. Do not wear red because ghosts are attracted to red.

7. Don't sing and whistle as these may attract ghosts.

8. Keep away from the walls as it is believed that ghosts like sticking to walls.

9. If you are born during the ghost month, avoid celebrating your birthday at night. It's better to celebrate during the daytime. 

10. The main doors of Buddhist and Taoist temples should be closed during the ghost month. Living people can only access the temples via side doors.

So why all the fuss?

Here is why the Ghost Month and Festival are so significant to Chinese Culture...

Just as the western culture have Halloween, many Asian countries have the Hungry Ghost Festival (also known as Zhong Yuan Jie in Chinese).

During the Ghost Month it is believed that the king of the underworld opens the gates of hell to allow the souls of the dead to visit the living world.

Ghost Festival is the day that all ghosts will come out to visit the living.

People will offer sacrifices to all the ghosts or spirits, not just their ancestors and relatives. It is the only time of year that ghosts are released to freely roam the Earth.

Offering to Ancestors in a family temple

The hungry ghosts, also called good brethren (good brother 好兄弟), are thought to be ancestors of people who were not given a correct funeral or burial.

How is the Hungry Ghost Month Celebrated?

According to custom, ghosts can get up to mischief if ignored. Many offerings are made during this period to keep the ghosts at ease and to pay respects to the deceased.

During the month, spirits with families will visit their relatives and those alone will roam on the street to seek food and entertainment.

Buddhists and Taoists perform ceremonies on the day to help the ghosts ease their suffering, they will set altars for them and chant scriptures. 

Monks also often throw rice or some small foods into the air to distribute them to the ghosts.

During the Hungry Ghost Month people will traditionally will offer sacrifices to the ghosts.

The sacrifices offered include; Rice, meat, fruit and all kinds things living people eat.

Red candles, joss sticks, incense, and paper money are burned daily until the end of the month when it is believed the ghosts return to the underworld.

Miniature paper items like cars, boats, houses, and clothes are also burned as the living want to ensure the deceased have all the material goods they need for the coming year.

Red painted paper lanterns cover the streets and homes and ceremonies are held.

During the street and market ceremonies, people gather to celebrate the festival. At temple ceremonies, monks organise festive activities.

During the main event (Hungry Ghost Festival) paper lanterns are placed on the water and burned on this evening.

The month-long Hungry Ghost Month ends with a special folk festival, Grappling with Ghosts, which is held in Toucheng, Taiwan. In other parts of the world, the ghosts return to the underworld and the gates are closed on the last night of Hungry Ghost Month.

Model of Grappling with Ghosts (搶孤)