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You are here: Home > Chinese Festivals Calendars & Info > Other Festivals > Hungry Ghost Festival

The Hungry Ghost Festival

The Hungry Ghost Festival, sometimes called Half July, is the Chinese version of All Souls' Day, where the living appease ghosts with a huge feast, so they will not harm anyone. The holiday takes place on the 15th day of the 7th month of the lunar Chinese calendar. The Hungry Ghost Festival takes place in China, as well as Singapore and Malaysia. It is a very serious holiday that the Chinese do not disregard.

Origin of the Holiday

The Chinese believe that during this time of the year the gates of the underworld are opened, allowing ghosts to roam the earth. The ghosts are forgotten souls who are held in limbo in the underworld, so they are continually in a state of unrest. In order to appease these souls, the Chinese offer them a feast in their honor.

Appeasing the Ghosts

Makeshift altars are erected to the ghosts during this holiday with prayers to the ghosts. The altars have offerings, which are placed in public places such as along roadsides, in temples, and other various places. The altars are never erected close to homes, in hopes that the ghosts will not reek havoc on household members.

It is common to see joss sticks glowing in the markets on the streets and tables displaying cold food that are not cooked. These might include rice, fruits, as well as raw meat. In most cases when the holiday is over, the food is given to the poor to eat.

Some Chinese will burn money and fabric in order to provide the ghosts with their basic needs. Incense is burned throughout the night. The more incense the better. The ceremonial acts are quite simple, but are done to make sure the ghosts are kept happy enough to return to the underworld without wrecking homes.

Stage operas and musicals are performed in order to entertain the Hungry Ghosts. It is believed that you must keep the ghosts happy.

Superstition or Not

There are many superstitions that the Chinese believe during this holiday. It is considered unsafe to go swimming during the seventh lunar month. It is believed that a ghost can cause one to drown. Floating lanterns are dispersed on top of the waters at dusk to remember those who have died in the waters, as well as to give light to the underworld spirits. When the lanterns have been extinguished, people head home and hope that the spirits would journey to another realm.

Young children are advised to stay indoors on this day. It is believed that the ghosts might lure the children to the underworld to meet untimely death. Weddings are never held on this day. It is considered bad luck.

All Part of Ghost Month

The Hungry Ghost Festival happens around the same time as the Buddhist Ullambana, a festival of Deliverance. This festival, too, is dedicated to communication with the dead. As such, the seventh lunar month is considered Ghost Month in China. It is a somber month for the Chinese.

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Hungry Ghosts' Festival Coloring Pages!  Just click on the small picture!

Coloring Page Description of  Custom

Spirits of ancestors appeased with joss sticks, cold food and flowers.

A Chinese ghost

Chinese Vampire

Lanterns for Hungry Ghost Festival.  Some leave lanterns to drift on bodies of water to light the way of underwater spirits.

Ghost Festivals are often in mid-summer.


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