Memos from Asia

The Spooky Hungry Ghost Festival in Hong Kong

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In the Western world, Halloween only lasts for a single night. However, many parts of Asia, including Hong Kong, celebrates Ghost Festival, as known as Yu Lan Festival for a month. Traditionally speaking, the Hungry Ghost Festival is a Taoist and Buddhist Festival, the Ghost Day is on the 15th night of the lunar seventh month while the whole lunar seventh month is regarded as the Ghost Month. The gate of Hell will be opened this month and the ghosts are said to roam to earth. On Ghost Day, the ghosts are said to be the weariest and the most ravenous on this day, so be aware!

What are the common rituals in Hong Kong?

In Hong Kong, it is easy to notice that many old ladies burn paper goods and hell banknotes in tin cans on the pavements or common areas in residential buildings. The offerings could vary from banknotes to the latest paper made iPhone 11. Some people may offer food including meat, fruits and pastries for their ancestors and restless wanderers. Besides, Chinese opera will be performed on pop-up theatres in some parks. You may notice that a few people are watching the opera because the opera is designed to please the wanderers who cannot be seen!

What to avoid during the Hungry Ghost Festival?

To avoid “meeting” the wanderers, there are few things to note:

  1. Go home before midnight every night as ghosts are believed to appear at night.
  2. Do not walk near the wall, because you may block the way of the spirits.
  3. Avoid touching, stepping, eating the food offerings. You don’t want to steal food from them, don’t you?
  4. Avoid talking about ghosts because it might increase your chance of meeting them.
  5. Avoid moving into a new house or furniture. You don’t know who is inside that house during the Ghost Month.

Hungry Ghost Festival during Covid-19

Festival this year is suggested to be a quieter one. Chinese operas for wanderers are cancelled and fewer people burn offerings on street this year. Citizens who want to burn offerings on the street must follow the strict instructions introduced by the government, including wearing a mask and follow the gathering ban of two people. Interestingly, many joss paper shops introduce the paper mask to burn to ancestors during the pandemic.

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