Before participating in this year’s Chinese Ghost Festival, let’s acquaint ourselves with its meaning and the various taboos associated with the occasion, along with a checklist of offerings. Read on below to learn more.
Chinese Ghost Festival: What is it?
The Chinese Ghost Festival is a significant holiday in China, known as “Zhongyuan Jie” in Chinese. It’s a festival dedicated to the deities and spirits, with the main deity being Zhongyuan or Zhong Kui. This festival is believed to be a day when humans can communicate with spirits. In the year 2023, the Chinese Ghost Festival falls on August 30th or the 15th day of the 7th lunar month according to the Chinese lunar calendar.
This festival is also known as the “Hungry Ghost Festival” or “Yulan Festival.” It is a day when people, especially those of Chinese descent, pay respects to deities, ancestors, and wandering spirits.
Taboos to Observe during the Chinese Ghost Festival:
- Avoid watching movies or shows in the front row of a theater. This area is considered reserved for VIP spirits who come to watch the performances.
- Refrain from kicking offerings placed on the ground. These offerings are for unclaimed spirits, and kicking them is believed to provoke their anger.
- Don’t sit at the head of a table meant for offerings. This is the spot reserved for deities and spirits to receive offerings.
- Avoid looking under altars or sacred places. You might witness mysterious things awaiting the offerings.
- Do not place children on the table of offerings. It’s believed that doing so might attract spirits to take them away.
- Avoid leaving pregnant women or children alone at night. It’s thought that evil spirits might try to possess them.
- Refrain from traveling during the 7th month according to the Chinese lunar calendar. Malevolent spirits might interfere with your journey.
There are many more prohibitions and taboos, such as avoiding entering forests, camping, water activities, picking up dropped coins, avoiding unusual sights or smells, not turning around if someone calls you, refraining from wearing black or red clothes, not killing insects, not moving houses, avoiding weddings or funerals, not leaving doors open at night, and not speaking alone at night.
Offerings for the Chinese Ghost Festival:
Preparing offerings for the Chinese Ghost Festival involves three sets:
Offerings to Deities:
- Cupcakes or steamed buns (fa gao)
- Red-dotted kueh
- Traditional Chinese pastries (kueh)
- Various fruits
- Chinese liquor
- Silver and gold paper
Offerings to Ancestors:
- Main dishes with curry
- Different desserts
- Silver and gold paper
Offerings to Wandering Spirits:
- Savory and sweet foods
- Roasted chicken
- Silver and gold paper for special offerings
Lucky Foods and Fruits for the Chinese Ghost Festival:
Lucky foods include boiled chicken, braised duck, pork trotters, wonton soup, fish, and cooked shrimp or squid. Lucky desserts include kueh, rice dumplings, mooncakes, and sweet dumplings. Lucky fruits include oranges, ripe bananas, pineapples, grapes, dragon fruit, red apples, and persimmons.