Every year at around this time, the traditional Chinese in Malaysia celebrate the Hungry Ghost Festival. The actual day of the festival is on the 15th day of the 7th month of the Chinese calendar. This year, that day is on the 28th of August, which is this Friday, but all month long, the Chinese make offerings and pay their respects to the ghosts, spirits, and dead ancestors that roam the earthly realm.
This festival is similar to All Hallow’s Eve, or Halloween, because the belief is that the veil between the spirit realm and the earthly realm is thinner during this time, and spirits are able to roam freely in our world, sometimes bringing mischief and misfortune to unsuspecting humans, especially those who do not properly show their respect for the spirits.
Unlike Halloween, however, the Chinese do not dress up and disguise themselves so that the ghosts and spirits will not recognize them. Instead, huge sticks of incense are lit, paper clothes, hell money, and various other offerings burned, and full servings of meals are prepared for these ghosts and spirits.
Since I was a little girl, my mother would warn me about stepping outside the house at night during the month of the Hungry Ghost, and when I was a teenager, she would not allow me to go out with my friends after dark. That was okay, because while not all of my friends had traditional Chinese parents, a lot of them weren’t allowed to go out either.
In recent years, the younger Chinese generation have become less superstitious but still respectful of the festival and the culture. If you are new to the culture and want to know what the appropriate behaviors are, here’s a whole list of do’s and don’t’s that superstitious Chinese observe during this month. Do keep in mind that a lot of the don’t’s are only superstition, though it doesn’t hurt to avoid doing any of them if you can.
Stay safe this Hungry Ghost Festival.