Spirit Festival (Ghost Festival)

The Spirit Festival, also known as the Ghost Festival, is an annual traditional Chinese festival celebrated in various East Asian countries, including China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Malaysia. It typically falls on the 15th day of the seventh lunar month, which is around August or September in the Gregorian calendar. The festival is believed to be a time when the spirits of deceased ancestors return to the earthly realm to visit their living relatives.

Key customs and traditions associated with the Spirit Festival include:

  1. Offering Ancestral Worship: Families prepare elaborate offerings of food, incense, and other items to honor their ancestors. These offerings are placed on altars or shrines, and prayers are offered to pay respect to deceased family members and ensure their well-being in the afterlife.
  2. Burning Ghost Money: Paper offerings, known as “ghost money,” are burned as offerings to the spirits. It is believed that these symbolic offerings will provide comfort and assistance to the deceased in the afterlife. Additionally, joss paper items representing material goods, such as houses, cars, and clothing, are burned to provide for the spirits’ needs.
  3. Lighting Incense and Lanterns: Incense sticks are lit to guide the spirits of ancestors back to their earthly homes and to ward off evil spirits. Lanterns are also lit to illuminate the way for the spirits and to create a festive atmosphere during the nighttime activities.
  4. Holding Rituals and Ceremonies: Various rituals and ceremonies are performed to appease the spirits and ensure their peaceful departure after the festival. These may include Taoist or Buddhist ceremonies conducted by priests or monks, as well as community gatherings to offer prayers and blessings.
  5. Setting Up “Ghost Gates”: In some regions, temporary structures called “ghost gates” are erected outside homes to welcome the spirits and prevent them from lingering and causing mischief. These gates are adorned with symbols and decorations believed to ward off evil spirits.
  6. Participating in Cultural Activities: The Spirit Festival is also a time for cultural performances, including traditional opera, puppet shows, and street parades. These activities serve to entertain both the living and the spirits and are an integral part of the festival celebrations.

Overall, the Spirit Festival is a time for families to remember and honor their ancestors, as well as to reflect on the cycle of life and death. It is a deeply ingrained cultural tradition that emphasizes the importance of filial piety, respect for elders, and maintaining connections with departed loved ones.