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Hungry Ghost Festival - Traditions and Beliefs

Hungry Ghost Festival

This year, the Hungry Ghost Month or the Seventh Month of the Lunar calendar starts on 19 August. The Chinese believe that the gates of Hell will open and the spirits from the underworld are released to roam the earth for one whole month.

The essence of the Seventh Lunar Month is of particular importance to Chinese culture, as it is a month for honouring one's ancestors. Chinese culture is very particular in the word Xiao ‘孝’ meaning filial. Paying respects to one's ancestors is a tradition of honoring one's family roots and to improve descendants' luck. Families will offer food by placing them on the altar at home. Ancestors are worshipped with dishes of meat, vegetables, wine and incense. Joss papers, clothing, houses and other items of value in the underworld (all made of paper) are then burnt in a large container placed outside their homes. Sometimes, priests and monks are hired to chant and pray for their ancestors to have a better life in the netherworld.

It is a time to display an “act of compassion” to wandering souls without descendants or to those whose descendants have long forgotten them with offerings in return for goodwill and blessings.

Chinese temples will organize prayer chants to be recited for the lost and wandering souls to help release their grievances.

After a month, the spirits are believed to return to Hell until the same month the following year.