People of Chinese ancestry will celebrate Ghost Festival on 25 August 2018. The festival, which is also known as the Hungry Ghost Festival, Zhongyuan Jie, Gui Jie or Yulan Festival, is a traditional Buddhist and Taoist festival held on the 15th night of the seventh month in Chinese calendar.
In Chinese culture, the 15th day of the seventh month in the Chinese calendar is called Ghost Day, and the seventh month in general is regarded as the Ghost Month, in which the gates of hell are opened and ghosts and spirits, including those of the deceased ancestors, are free to roam the earth and visit the living. These ghosts are believed to be ancestors of those who forgot to pay tribute to them after they died, or those who were never given a proper ritual send-off. They have long needle-thin necks because they have not been fed by their family, or as a punishment so that they are unable to swallow.
During Ghost Festival, family members of the deceased ancestors will offer prayers to their deceased relatives, prepare ritualistic food offerings, burn incense, and burn joss paper, a papier-mâché form of material items such as clothes, gold and other fine goods for the visiting spirits of the ancestors. Joss paper items are believed to have value in the afterlife, considered to be very similar in some aspects to the material world. At homes, elaborate meals (often vegetarian meals) would be served with empty seats for each of the deceased in the family, treating the deceased as if they are still living.
Families also pay tribute to other unknown wandering ghosts so that these homeless souls do not intrude on their lives and bring misfortune. Fourteen days after the festival, to make sure all the hungry ghosts find their way back to hell, lotus-shaped lanterns are lit and set afloat in rivers and out onto seas to symbolically guide the lost souls of forgotten ancestors to the afterlife.
Buddhists and Taoists will hold ceremonies to relieve ghosts from suffering, many of them holding ceremonies in the afternoon or at night (as it is believed that the ghosts are released from hell when the sun sets). And in some East Asian countries, live performances are held and everyone is invited to attend. The first row of seats are always empty as this is where the ghosts sit. The shows are always put on at night and at high volumes as the sound is believed to attract and please the ghosts.
In some ways, the Ghost Festival has the same spirit with Mexican’s Dia de Muertos, in which family members will pray for their departed ones to help support their spiritual journey.
If you do not celebrate Ghost Festival, you could still share the spirit by remembering your deceased loved ones, family members or relatives. Share their happy moments with the remaining family members, also visit and clean up their graves. That way, they will always live in your heart.
How about you? Tell us your favorite Ghost Festival activity, or share your most memorable Ghost Festival celebration!