The seventh lunar month in the traditional Chinese calendar is called Ghost Month and the 15th day of the month is Ghost Festival, sometimes called Hungry Ghost Festival or Yulan Festival.
Celebrated mostly in South China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and especially in Singapore and Malaysia. The Hungry Ghost Festival is taken very seriously by the Chinese, the gates of hell are opened to let out the hungry ghosts who then wander to seek food on earth.
This is the day when the spirits are in high gear. It’s important to give them a sumptuous feast, to please them and to bring luck to the family. Taoists and Buddhists perform ceremonies on this day to ease the sufferings of the deceased. This year it’s on the 14th August 2011 and I visited the Ghost Festival in Peng Chau one of the small islands in Hong Kong.
On the first day of the month, the Gates of Hell are sprung open to allow ghosts and spirits access to the world of the living. The spirits spend the month visiting their families, feasting and looking for victims. In Peng Chau, visitors can see small roadside fires, where believers burn fake money, which are also known as hell money and makes other offerings to the restless spirits and their ancestors. Some families also burn paper houses and cars to give to their dead relatives. The Chinese feel that these offerings reach the ghosts and help them live comfortably in their new world. Special food is often prepared to feed the hungry ghosts.
The ghost month is a bad time to do activities such as travelling, moving house, or starting a new business. Many people avoid swimming during ghost month, since there are many spirits in the water which can try to drown you.