Hungry Ghost Month is one of the most inauspicious month of the lunar calendar in Chinese, Filipino-Chinese all over the world.
This usually takes place in the 7th month of the Chinese lunar calendar. The highlight of the inauspicious month is ” The Hungry Ghost Festival,’ which occurs on the 15th day of the 7th lunar month.
Chinese Hungry Ghost month
The Ghost month begins on August 19 and ends on September 16, 2020. There are several superstitious belief which were associated during the entire month of celebration.
25 Basic Do and Don’t During Ghost Month
25.) Visit to Chinese/ Taoist/ Buddhist temple. This is to seek protection during the entire ghost month. Some Buddhists/ Taoists will also visit the remains of their dead relative enshrined in columbary units or in temples to ask for guidance and blessing. This is also the time to receive amulets or bracelets blessed by Taoist monks or Buddhist priests in a special ceremony according to one’s Chinese zodiac sign.
24.) Refrain from opening new business during the duration of ghost month.
23.) Starting construction,opening bank accounts,signing contracts, major surgical operations,starting construction, celebrations, purchasing new furniture, buying dolls, puppets and moving out are usually postpone until after the ghost month.
22.) Travel into far flung places and wilderness is avoided – People are advise to avoid going to lakes, beaches, waterfall, rivers, mountain hiking or far places. This is not to offend the wandering ghost or unseen spirits which may dwell on these places.
21.) Wearing of bright colors like red, pink, fushia,magenta or dark colors like navy blue, gray and brown. Avoid these colors for they are considered inauspicious during this month. This is also generally practice by those who have relatives or close friends who died away within two- year time period. Some people also do not visit barbershop or salon to fix their hair, cutting of hair even nails during this month.
20.) Avoid Hanging Clothes Overnight – Wandering spirits may inadvertently enter one’s home.
19.) Avoid putting wind chimes around your home or property – The sound of metals clanking during the hungry ghost month may signal to spirits that your house is open to visitors. This can also attracts negative chi into your home or establishment.
18.) Avoid open umbrella inside home or buildings– unseen ethereal being may take refuge under them during this time. Bright colored umbrellas such as red, brown, grey or black must be avoided. Try to wipe your umbrellas dry for just a little while and close as soon as you can before entering one’s home or building. One may also leave one’s umbrella in the patio area.
17.) Do not leave the front door open – Do not leave front door open for a long period of time.This can invite negative chi or ethereal spirits into your home or building. Keep the negative energy out by keeping your doors closed. Some people will not enter the main door and will only use the side door or doors at the back to enter one’s home or establishment.
16.) Women and Men are discourage to wear high heel shoes– When a person feet are elevated from the ground, the person vulnerable to being possessed by spirits through the heels. Try to wear footwear without heels as much as possible.
15.) Avoid going outside after sunset -People are advise to stay indoor after sunset or avoid staying outdoors until dawn is observe in many Asian countries. Some will not go out by 12:00 midnight. This will avoid contact with any wandering spirit or offending unseen ghost in the dark. Some of which may cast misfortune or misery to anyone who might be offending them.
14.) Avoid killing insects inside home or building – This is specific to moths, butterflies, grasshoppers,crickets,dragon fly which are found within one’s home. These are considered as messenger by one’s ancestor or recently decease relatives who may opt to visit.
13.) Avoid sweeping floors and washing clothes during night time for the entire duration of the ghost month. This is like an open invitation to all the wandering ghosts that they can stay in your home or building by providing environment.
12.) Consulting the Dead and Deities– This is the best time to consult the dead “Pwa-pwe” by throwing the “Jiaobei“/ Moon Blocks/ Poe to the floor, (a pair of half-circle red wood or black wood, to ask the deceased if they are done with their feast).
Jiaobei or Moon Blocks/ Poe
11.) If the Pwa-Pwe comes out as “No” / “Maybe”, come back for a few more minutes and try again. If it comes out as “Yes”, burn first the gold joss paper of the gods then followed by the silver joss paper of the deceased.
Moon blocks are also used to verify a range of issues, such as proper ritual protocol, spiritual presence of the gods or if they have eaten the offerings presented to them.
10.) Different offering date for the recently decease relatives and those who died three years or more.
Proper schedule and offering is strictly observe for those who have relatives who died within the two year period. People normally offer favorite food, burn personal belonging,burn joss paper money or joss paper crafts should be done on September 1, 2020 ( July 14th lunar calendar), a day before the Hungry Ghost Festival. The burnt objects and offerings are normally use and eaten by dead relatives in the afterlife.
Those who have decease relatives three years or more can prepare offering during the day of the Hungry Ghost Day on September 2, 2020 (July 15th lunar calendar). The spirit of the dead will be visiting their families, feasting and looking for victims during this period. While the ghosts are roaming, people are expected to offer sacrifices to their deceased ancestors and relatives during these dates.
9.) Offering to Ho Hia Ti must be done by September 2, 2020 on the date of the Hungry Ghost. Avoid saying the Chinese term for ghost “gue” or ” guizi” but usually refer to them as good buddies or good brothers. The term is equivalent is “ho heng tai” in Cantonese ,” hao xiong di” in Mandarin or “ho hia ti” in Hokkien.
8.) Avoid offering food and dishes must not be hot, otherwise the wandering ghost can not eat properly.
7.) Do Not Leave Chopsticks standing upright in your bowl. It is considered taboo in many East Asian countries. The position resembles joss sticks for the dead. Hungry ghosts may mistake your food as offerings and take over your body to consume it. The only time one will put the chopstick upright is during the offering of food.
6.) Offering of round fruits in odd numbers (3 of a kind, 5 of a kind, etc.). Examples are apples, pear, oranges, pomelo. Avoid offering fruits like lansones, figs, guavas must be avoided. ( Those fruits which seeds passes in the gut of birds or bats and can germinate). Noodles can also be offered; however, it must be either bihon, pancit canton, misua or sotanghon only. Avoid offering birthday noodles since it is reserve for celebration.
incense sticks- Photo courtesy of pixabay user: Ms.trixie-429304
5.) Color Coding for Incenses and Candles- Maroon/ Red colored incense is offered for those decease relatives who died at least three years or more. Yellow/ Brown colored incense for those with decease ancestors who died less than two years.
Candles ( white for first year, yellow for second year and red/ pink/ magenta for those with dead relatives who died three years or more.) It is normally waived for those decease relatives who died ages 100 or more- They can offer maroon/ red candles or maroon incense.
4.) Burning Hell Banknotes / Ghost Paper Money or Joss Paper.
Hell Banknotes/ Ghost Paper Money/ Joss Paper are burn after consulting the moon block. The joss paper are burn on a special color coded silver and gold can containers on the sidewalk in front of your house or store. One must wait until past lunchtime between 1:00 or 2:00 o’clock in the afternoon when the day is at its hottest. There is no limit to how many joss paper money offering to your ancestors or guardians of hell.It is believe that the joss money is use by dead relative in the afterlife, while the kim joss money is use to bribe the guardians of the underworld.
Silver colored (Gun) joss can containers are for the dead relatives, While the gold colored ( Kim) joss can containers are reserve for the deities or guardian of the hell.
3.) Offering an odd number of a kind of food to the lost spirit or wandering ghost inside their garage in front of their gate. Try to offer even number of incense/joss sticks for the deceased (two sticks per ancestor). Use three maroon incense/joss sticks for each of the Gods.
Try to light stick one incense per food. Use a joss paper called, “Kwa-Kim”, a special joss paper that is wrapped in newspaper, it can be bought at all Chinese specialty stores. A small table for To Ti Kong/ Tudi Gong (Earth God/ Lord of the Place) on the right side (facing the gate) beside the offering table for must also be displayed.
Try to clean up the offering at the ancestor’s altar after burning all the joss paper and enjoy the food that has been offered. This will bring the luck to the people offering the food.
2.) Do not consume the offering until after the joss sticks lights are out and joss papers are completely burn. This will give time for the ghost to eat.
1.) On the Night of “The Hungry Ghost Day” people in China and Chinese communities around the world write the names of their deceased relatives on paper lanterns (usually shaped like a lotus flower) with a candle inside. The lanterns are floated down the river in the belief that lost ghosts will follow them and find their way home. Few people practice this in the country. Some will also light firecrackers to scare away evil spirits.
These are just a few of the do and don’t which were practice by Tsinoys/ Chinoys/ Filipino-Chinese during the Hungry Ghost Month.
Sources, References and Bibliography:
Personal interviews with Mr. Lebon Ong, Mrs. Felicidad Chua, Master Go Eng Lo and Mrs. Lily Ang
Williams, Paul (2005). Buddhism: Buddhism in South and Southeast Asia. ISBN 9780415332330.
Teiser, Stephen F. (1988), The Ghost Festival in Medieval China, Princeton: Princeton University Press, ISBN 978-0-691-02677-0.
Lin, Ed ; Hardcover, 336 pages, Published July 29th 2014 by Soho Crime, ISBN: 1616953268
Buswell, Robert E (2004). Encyclopedia of Buddhism. Macmillan Reference USA. p. 21. ISBN 978-0028659107.