Welcome to another Ghost Month!
As most of us know, Ghost Month is the seventh lunar month of the Chinese Lunar Calendar. It usually falls somewhere around August, and for 2022, it’s July 29th to August 26th. The celebration – if you could really call it one – reaches its peak on the 15th day, the Hungry Ghost Festival.
In short, Ghost Month is where the gates of hell are open. Ghosts and spirits are allowed to return to the living world in search of their family, food, and entertainment. So essentially, a summer holiday for the dead.
It’s believed that the gates of hell are big and heavy, so it takes around two weeks for them to open fully – during that time, spirits and ghosts start to slip through the gate, or if you’d prefer another name, the dimensional rift. The gates will then stay fully open on the 15th day to allow every spirit to cross over into the realm of the living. After that, the gates will slowly close, and our ghostly visitors will slowly slip back into the underworld to avoid being stranded.
Learn More About Our Visitors From The Other Side
While most people say that Ghost Month is the scariest month, most of these spooky visitors are believed to be deceased souls who did not manage to move on to be reincarnated. They’re also believed to be held back by their connection to the living realm in some manner or form, such as worldly desires, regret, or unfinished business.
Similar to the Disney movie Coco where spirits cross over during the Day of the Dead, most of them just want to see their family again. The Hungry Ghost Festival is also a time to honour your ancestors – Chinese families will pray and pay respect to their deceased elders, to thank them for their life lessons and to guide the family to and fro from the afterlife. Families prepare tables of food offerings and burn incense, joss paper, and paper replicas.
However, it’s also a common belief that misfortunes run rampant during Ghost Month, such as bad health, property loss, and bad luck. Homeless spirits with nowhere to return to are believed to be neglected as no one prepares offerings for them. They will then wander around and bring bad luck and harm to others.
Taoists and Buddhists hold special ceremonies and traditions to honour ancestors’ spirits and to protect themselves from misfortune. They believe that by doing so, their ancestors are able to bless and protect them from harm during the festival.
If you have superstitious Chinese friends, don’t take it personally if they decline your invitations to hang out for dinner or supper. Even if they aren’t that superstitious, chances are that their elderly parents or grandparents are the ones nagging at them to avoid going out. The closer we get to the Hungry Ghost Festival, the more likely we’ll see fewer people coming out after sunset.
Common Ghost Festival Offerings
Families prepare offerings such as bowls of cooked rice, dishes, and meats for their ancestors in hopes of pleasing them. Some even offer roasted pork or chicken, but the most common meal would be rice or huat kueh, a Chinese steamed cake. In recent years, it’s been common to offer more extravagant dishes for good luck.
Burning offerings have also taken a turn in recent times. Usually, families burn incense, joss paper and paper replicas of jewellery, clothes, maybe even a sports car or two. In modern times like this, offerings include paper replicas of laptops, the latest iPhone, even an airfryer or a massage chair. We’re still not too sure if there’s WiFi in the other world, but if it pleases the ancestors, why not?
Let’s talk about some popular taboos for the ghostly month ahead.
10 Taboos For Ghost Month
- Avoid Staying Out Late
It’s wise to return home after sunset, as spirits are believed to be the strongest after the sun goes down. Staying out too late at night is especially dangerous for children, elderly folks, and pregnant women.
- Avoid Swimming or Visiting Bodies of Water
It’s a popular belief that you shouldn’t swim, especially after sunset. Water spirits are believed to be vengeful, and will look for victims to drag under the surface.
- Don’t Touch Food Offerings
Food offerings by the roadside or shrines should be left alone as they are prepared for our ghostly guests. Touching, stepping, or even stepping over these offerings are considered to be offensive to them!
- Keep Your Hands To Yourself
If you see something shiny on the streets like a coin or anything out of the ordinary, don’t pick it up. Coins, trinkets or even imitation gold on the street are meant to bribe the guards of the underworld, and if you pick them up, it will offend them.
- Don’t Hang Clothes After Dark
Avoid hanging laundry out after the sun sets as it’s a popular belief that spirits will ‘try on’ the clothes, and then be brought into the house. If you have urgent laundry to do, visit a laundry bar instead. At the same time, avoid wearing colours like red as spirits are believed to be attracted to it!
- Avoid Shifting Furniture
Try to avoid making any changes to your home, whether small or big. This includes changes such as home renovations to shifting your bed or table around. People believe that these changes may disturb any visiting ancestors or residing spirits that would have been used to the older, previous layout.
- Store Away The Bug Spray
Don’t kill any insects, especially moths. Chinese people strongly believe that spirits can be reincarnated as insects such as moths. If you see a wasp or a month sitting politely on your windowsill, ignore them or nudge them out gently. For all we know, it might be a relative saying hello.
- Reduce The Instastories
Cameras are believed to be able to trap any lurking spirits, and this extends to smartphone cameras as well. If you want to avoid a ghostly extra, avoid taking pictures of offerings, or at locations around them. This goes for Snapchats, Tiktoks, or Instastories too! You might end up bringing along some unwanted company via your iPhone.
- Use Nicknames Or Honorifics Only
Our elders often tell us to never look back when we hear our name being called during the Ghost Month. This extends to the other party as well – people are encouraged to refer to each other with nicknames. Even the simple ‘oi’, ‘ah girl’ or ‘lenglui’ work if you’re familiar with them. This is because we should avoid spirits learning our names and using them to attract us unawaringly.
- Clear Your Bed Of Accessories
Trinkets like wind chimes or bells hanging around your bed should be taken down. It’s believed that spirits will be attracted by the sounds. They might enter your dreams or even possess you in your sleep. We’re not too sure about anime keychains though, but better to be safe than sorry!
Simply Hamper’s Ghost Month Offerings
If you’re looking to spice up offerings for your ancestors, or need to scrounge up some last minute arrangements, consider shopping with us! Simply Hamper offers gifts such as bundles of food or condolence flowers, perfect as offerings for the ghostly month.
Visit us today to check out what we have to offer. We offer same-day delivery around Singapore, guaranteed to arrive before sunset.