Ghost Festival

08/18/2024 @ All Day –

Ghost Festival, also known as the Hungry Ghost Festival, is a traditional religious festival that is celebrated in Taiwan on August 18, 2024.

Ghost Festival
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Ghost Festival

Ghost Festival, (also known as the Hungry Ghost Festival), is a traditional religious festival that is celebrated in Taiwan on August 18, 2024.

The Hungry Ghost Festival is on August 18th, 2024.
Ghost Month is from August 8th to September 2nd, 2024.

Ghost Festival is when hungry ghosts make their annual appearance in Taiwan. Each year, they leave the land of the dead and wander the earth beginning on the first day of the 7th month of the lunar calendar – for 30 days.

What’s likely to take place during Ghost Month?

Religious events related to the Chinese Ghost Festival are held at various temples in Taipei, Taichung, Kaohsiung, and other cities throughout Taiwan during the entire month. The most important celebrations are held in the following Taiwanese cities: Keelung in the north, Toucheng on the east coast, and Hengchun in the southern part of Taiwan.

There are special activities during Ghost Month which mainly involve burning joss paper (ghost money). It’s believed that after burning this special type of paper, it gets used by ghosts as a form of spiritual currency in the afterlife.

What the Ghost festival is all about:

WHO ARE THESE HUNGRY GHOSTS?

In the Taoist tradition, it is thought that the special category of hungry ghosts is the souls of individuals who have experienced an unpleasant or violent death, or who committed evil deeds during their lifetime. Such deeds include murder, stealing, or sexual misconduct, which Buddhists believe stem from the emotional underpinnings of greed, ignorance, anger, and desire. Therefore, hungry ghosts may be the spirits of people that always wanted more than they had when they were alive and never appreciated what others did for them. So, their life in the afterlife will be the same, filled with discontent.

Many relatives lost patience with such people while they were alive, often disowning them. So, when the souls of these disinherited individuals are annually released from the underworld for a month, they come back as unhappy, dissatisfied, hungry ghosts looking for fulfillment in the land of the living.

WHAT DO YOU FEED A HUNGRY GHOST?

Hungry ghosts are said to have enormous stomachs, thin, reed-like necks, and tiny mouths. No amount of food is ever enough for them: no matter how much they try to eat, they are always hungry. This is why shopkeepers, business owners, and neighborhoods set up special tables outside their establishments during Ghost Month and the Hungry Ghost Festival. They want to ensure that these wandering hungry ghosts will have many delicious foods to choose from, and not be tempted to bother the living.

Popular outside table settings for hungry ghosts range from long banquet tables, overflowing with elaborate edible delicacies, to a single fold-up table covered with simple foods. Among the offerings are some of Taiwan’s most delicious fruit (such as pineapples, guava, mangoes, bananas), a roasted duck or chicken, popular snacks, vegetarian dishes of tofu, steamed vegetables, rice, or snacks, and small packets of juice, along with a six-pack or two of Taiwan beer.

SPECIAL GHOST MONTH CUSTOMS

Each outdoor table has a special incense pot, in which are placed ignited sticks of burning incense after prayers are offered for the souls of the wandering ghosts. Stacks of golden-colored paper money embossed with vermillion characters are burned in a special container. As the ashes from the paper money rise, it is thought that they will be transformed into money for the afterlife bank accounts of departed souls, including those for hungry ghosts.

In ancient China, ghosts or good brothers (the polite way to refer to all ghosts) were taken seriously. Because of this belief, many ghost-prevention practices and taboos sprung up, and have continued to the present day. Going swimming during ghost month is a strong taboo. This is because of the enormous need that water ghosts have for taking the souls of the living.

There are zillions of Ghost Month stories about people that ignored this taboo, only to be found washed up somewhere or floating face down in a swimming pool.

Another taboo is that a person should not stay out too late at night, because of the number of wandering ghosts and the possibility that one might follow you home. Don’t whistle or hang wind chimes near your home at this time of year.

The musical sounds are a sweet-sounding invitation for a ghost to find you. Hospitals and operations are to be avoided. Hospitals are popular gathering places during Ghost Month for ghosts waiting to take a soul.

BIDDING HUNGRY GHOSTS FAREWELL

As Ghost Month and the Hungry Ghost Festival draw to a close, people flock to harbors, rivers, and lakes to bid the ghosts a safe journey back to the underworld.

Since ghosts are attracted to water, they will know that it is time to leave the land of the living. In several places around the island, such as Keelung, small lanterns in the shape of lotus flowers are lit, put onto paper boats, and then gently placed into the water.

As bystanders watch the lanterns drift away, they are carefully watched. When a lantern’s candle is extinguished, it is a sign that the ghost following it has reached the other side safely. The living has secured peace from the attention of the hungry ghosts for another year.

The 9 Taboos to be remembered during ghost month

Since the gates of hell will open up within the ghost month period, it’s best to consider these tips to avoid macabre missteps:

1. Don’t take the last bus or train: It is believed the early morning hours after midnight are the strongest in yin energy. Therefore, it is advisable to avoid taking the last bus or train of the night to avoid being taken away by a phantom driver.

2. Don’t pat a person on the shoulders: The living are believed to have a protective invisible flame that emanates from either shoulder and thus patting a person on the shoulder will snuff out that flame.

3. Don’t take photos at night: Avoid taking photos or videos in dark corners, especially at night, otherwise, a phantom photobomb might ruin the picture.

4. Don’t take a mirror inside an elevator: Elevators are generally not exposed to sunlight and tend to gather yin energy, while mirrors are an object that Good Brothers love to possess. It is advisable to spend less time looking in mirrors to avoid unsightly spectators.

5. Don’t suddenly look back: Ghouls with guile will call out their victims’ names or pat them on the back hoping they will suddenly turn their heads, making them vulnerable to attack. The solution is to turn the whole body at once instead of just the head.

6. Do not hang wind chimes: The ringing of wind chimes sounds similar to the ringing of the soul, therefore it is believed they attract ghosts.

7. Don’t pick up coins off the street: After burning clothes for Good Brothers on the street, people often toss coins. If a person picks these coins up and takes them home, some uninvited guests may tag along.

8. Don’t walk near walls: Since ghosts like to stick on walls because they are cooler. It is, therefore, advisable to avoid contact with walls as much as possible during the Ghost Festival and Ghost Month in general.

9. Don’t engage in water sports: It is considered highly dangerous to go swimming in coastal areas and streams because it is believed that evil spirits that have drowned may try to drown the swimmer to gain a chance at rebirth. The upside for non-believers is that the beaches are pretty much empty for the whole month.

Source: Taiwan News

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