Notice anything spooky this weekend? Anything… out of the ordinary? You know, roadside fires, paper boats floating around, or ravenous tortured spirits? Then you, my friend, got your first taste of Ghost Day (鬼节).
In China, the seventh lunar month is known as Ghost Month (鬼月) and the fifteenth day is called Ghost Day or the Hungry Ghost Festival. During this festival, which is rooted in Buddhist and Taoist beliefs, Chinese believe that the gates of Hell are opened, releasing hungry ghosts to walk the Earth and seek food. Families celebrate by paying tribute to their dead ancestors, as well as unknown wandering souls, so that they can be put to rest instead of hanging around bringing bad luck to the living.
So how do people pay tribute? Many prepare food offerings to feed the hungry ghosts; some even lay out elaborate meals and leave an empty chair, just in case a wandering ghost happens to pop by for dinner. There’s also the burning of papier-mâché items, folded joss paper and fake money (in very high denominations) so that the ghosts may have these items in the afterlife. Releasing miniature paper boats and lanterns on water is also popular, as it is believed that this gives direction to any lost spirits that need guidance.
What does a teleporting Monk have to do with the Hungry Ghost Festival? I’m glad you asked.