The eighth month of the year is August and it is known as the ghost month. But what is it about this month that people are wary of it? And what are some traditions being observed during this month that we should be aware of?
The ghost festival actually refers to the festival of the hungry ghost which happens in the seventh month of the Chinese calendar. During this month, the gates of hell are said to open up and ghosts are free to roam the earth to seek food and entertainment. The ghosts are believed to be the souls of those who were not properly sent off or those who have been forgotten by their relatives and were never given proper tribute after their death.
Family members are asked to pray for their dead, offer food and drink and burn joss paper items. Families also are made to pay tribute to homeless ghosts who have no one to pray for them so they do not roam around intruding in the lives of people and causing them misfortune. A large feast is held for the ghosts on the fourteenth day of the seventh month, when people bring samples of food and place them on an offering table to please the ghosts and ward off bad luck.
As the ghosts and the suffering spirits will come out from the hell to visit their homes during the 7th lunar month (the ghost month), many things should be avoided during this month including the ghost day:
Avoid doing these things at night.
- Do not leave the main door of the house open,
- Do not celebrate a birthday (do it at daytime),
- Do not hang clothes outside (spirits might try them on)
- Do not stroll or go out at 12 midnight (as ghost may approach you for food or follow you home)
Do not start anything as it is generally bad luck to begin something during the ghost month
- Move in to a new house,
- Start a business,
- Marry and start a family,
- Renovate the house as it may disturb the spirits there
- Move a fish tank inside the house
Avoid attracting the ghosts:
- Do not wear red or black,
- Do not wear high heels,
- Do not sing or whistle,
- Do not open umbrellas in the house (spirits may reside in them),
- Do not take selfies or videos (ghosts may appear in them)
- Do not sleep facing the mirror,
- Don’t go near the walls (as ghosts usually stick to the walls),
- Do not place sandals facing the headboard (to avoid ghosts sleeping over at night),
Avoid these usually safe activities:
- Swimming as (those dead who were drowned might pull you to drown yourself),
- Picking up coins or money on the street or at least avoid bringing them home,
- Going to the jungle.
Do not offend the spirits:
- By stepping on offerings,
- By peeing on trees,
- By killing rare insects
- By talking about ghosts
Some things considered inauspicious during the month:
- Visiting a sick person in the hospital,
- Attending a funeral,
Avoid doing things such as:
- Patting somebody on the forehead or shoulders,
- Looking back when someone calls your name from the back,
- Having the chopsticks stab rice when eating (food might be mistaken as offering)
While all these beliefs may or may not have basis, one thing is sure, praying for the dead will certainly bring peace to those who went ahead of us. Let us pause for a moment and offer them our prayer of thanks and gratitude for all that they have done.