The Hungry Ghost Festival (zhongyuan jie in Chinese), which marks the opening of the Gates of Hell, is a traditional Taoist and Buddhist festival celebrated in certain Asian countries such as China, Malaysia, Singapore, and Taiwan. This is when ghosts and spirits, including deceased ancestors, enjoy a ‘vacation’ in the human world as they wander around searching for food and entertainment or visiting the living.
According to the Chinese calendar, the festival officially falls on the 15th night of the seventh month, but the ‘festivities’ are a month-long affair. During this month, believers would prepare food offerings, burn incense and joss paper, and paper-mâché form of material items such as clothes, gold and other fine goods to pay homage to the deceased and appease them. As it’s considered an inauspicious month, some may also adhere strictly to superstitions and beliefs to avoid encountering ‘bad luck’.
Officially, the Hungry Ghost Month kicked off on August 8. It will culminate in the main festival on August 22 before closing out on September 6. Whether you're superstitious or not, here are some things that you may want to avoid doing during the month-long festival.
1. Stay out late/in the dark
Similar to what you see in the movies, ghosts and spirits thrive in the dark and are at their strongest at night because the yin energy from the moon strengthens them. During the seventh month, they’re free to loiter in the living world and they’re said to prey on unsuspecting victims at night, especially children and pregnant women. Hence, it’s best to get home before sunset and avoid nighttime activities.
They’re also believed to loiter around dark, shaded areas such as at a bus stop or under a tree so avoid those—and while you’re at it, postpone jungle trekking, hiking, or camping.