8 Things to Avoid During the Hungry Ghost Festival
In Chinese culture, the gates of hell are said to open during the fifteenth day of the seventh month in the lunar calendar, which permits ghosts to roam free and receive offering (food and drinks, among others) from the living.
What exactly is the Hungry Ghost Festival?
In Chinese culture, the gates of hell are said to open during the fifteenth day of the seventh month in the lunar calendar, which permits ghosts to roam free and receive offering (food and drinks, among others) from the living. The 7th month is referred to as the Ghost Month.
You may have started to smell incense, which are offerings to the dead. You will also see cakes and other offerings by the roadside. Some offer these in their home altars. On a much larger scale, you will start to smell smoke. These are “hell money” and other paper offerings burned to please the ghosts.
Like most festivals that deal with ghosts and the dead, there are certain superstitions that surround the Hungry Ghost Festival – or else, you’ll incur the wrath of the spirits that are roaming free. If you offend the spirits, it is said that they will follow you home.
1. Do not step over, touch or kick roadside offerings – or even ashes at the pavement
The number one thing to avoid during the seventh month is stepping over, touching, or kicking roadside offerings.
Roadside offerings are common during Ghost Month. These are for the hungry ghosts to eat. So if you do not want to incur the ire of the spirits, do not touch these offerings. However, if you do accidentally knock over the offerings, quickly apologise and put everything back into place.
This same goes for the ashes by the roadside and other temporary altars. You wouldn’t want an angry spirit to follow you home, would you?
2. Do not wear red clothing
Wear all the red you want during Chinese New Year and Chinese weddings. But please do not do so during Ghost Month. Why, you ask? Apparently, ghosts are attracted to the colour red. I mean, who wouldn’t be?
If you do not want to attract these spirits and have them follow you around, then avoid wearing this colour. It is not as auspicious during the seventh month.
3. Do not photograph the hungry ghost offerings
In the age where every mobile phone has a camera function, it is so easy to snap photos of things we see. However, it would not be wise to take photos of food offerings as there might be hungry ghosts consuming their offerings, and you might “trap” them. Cameras are said to trap spirits lurking around.
That goes without saying that you should not take selfies with the offerings as well.
4. Don’t sing or whistle at night
The more noise you make, the greater the chances of you attracting the attention of these wandering, hungry ghosts, who might be so fascinated with your noisy self so as to follow you home.
Speaking of night, it would be best to refrain wandering around at night. And if, by chance you hear your name being called late at night (and you’re pretty sure you’re alone), do not turn around.
5. Do not look under prayer altars or offering tables
Prayer altars in temporary tents are common during the seventh month. Most offering tables hold a ton of colourful offerings for the hungry ghost. For whatever reason, do not disturb the feasting spirits -- this includes NOT looking under the table. They will not be happy with being interrupted. Or... who knows what you might see under there.
6. Do not sit in the front row of getai performances
Pre-COVID, getai performances during the Ghost Month are nearly everywhere. You will notice that the front row is usually empty. As tempting as it is to sit there, please don’t. The front row is reserved especially for the spirits who are the VIPs.
7. Do not talk to yourself when you’re walking alone at night
There are times when we talk to ourselves out loud. Like singing and whistling, this might be taken by some spirits as an open invitation to follow (or interact!) with you. There might be someone else who will respond to your conversation.
And, when you suddenly feel an unexplainable chill, just stay calm. Do not run or panic. Just walk straight ahead.
8. Wash your feet immediately after you reach home
Wash your feet immediately when you arrive in your home. Do not head to your bedroom, just head straight to the bathroom and wash them. This is to get rid of the unwanted spirits that might have followed you home.
Of course, with this pandemic, it is a must that you bathe when you arrive in your home to keep your home clean.
There you have it. There’s no harm following these superstitions, right?