Hungry Ghost Festival

As the Hungry Ghost Festival approaches, here are some tips for avoiding the dearly departed.

In August, at the beginning of the seventh month of the Chinese Almanac Calendar, you will start to see quite a lot of people burning paper offerings, displaying foods and demonstrating rituals on the side of the street. This is the time for a traditional Chinese festival called the Yu Lan Festival, also known as the Hungry Ghost Festival. The Buddhist festival originated in India and has evolved in combination with Chinese cultural folklore.

During the festival, ghosts and spirits roamed around freely to visit the living. The burning rituals are offerings to these wandering ghosts and spirits to keep them calm and peaceful during their visits. Some believe that the deceased may choose to show themselves to the living during the period. For those of us who’d prefer not to meet these “festive travellers”, here are some tips that can help reduce our chances of these surprise encounters!

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Go home early
Avoid staying out late at night, especially when it’s not your lucky day, as bad luck or negative energy can increase the chances of encountering the unwanted. After all, it’s much safer at home!

Don’t pick up coins on the street
Throwing coins on the street is part of the Hungry Ghost Festival ritual and apparently those coins are for the hungry ones to take, not you!

Don’t cover your forehead
Bangs may be stylish, but they’re definitely not a good idea during the festival. Qi, or life energy, is believed to be concentrated at the forehead and therefore covering one’s forehead will decrease the qi. Some also believe that shoulders and the top of the head represent the fire element, and tapping those parts during the festival will adversely affect one’s luck. Remember, luck is all you need to keep out any surprises.

Wear jade or amulet
In traditional Chinese culture, wearing jade or carrying a jade amulet can increase your energy levels and shield you from evil spirits.

Team up with your friends
Avoid travelling alone late at night. If you have to be on the streets after dark, try teaming up with your friends. As the amount of qi increases according to the number of people gathered together, it is believed that the unwanted will avoid crowds.

Walk in the light
Once again, avoid dark, quiet places. If you want to keep up with your nightlife, try choosing busy, crowded areas to hang out in. Also, don’t pay attention to others’ business. During the festival, rituals are performed on every corner, so try to keep a safe distance from the performance and avoid interruptions.

The Hungry Ghost festival is a 15-day long festival. There are different rituals and performances around town to entertain festival travelers, so try not to get overly stressed about possible encounters. Keep in mind that happiness and positivity will improve your luck and reduce your chances of these peculiar encounters!