The Ghost Month occurs during the seventh month of the Lunar calendar, which runs from July 29 to August 26, 2022. This means that during this time, you will witness people burning joss sticks, putting food on the pavement, and even performing to an empty audience. Despite the fact that the Hungry Ghost Festival only takes place on August 12, the entire month is known as Ghost Month, and here’s why.
Why is it called ‘Ghost Month’?
Essentially, the gates of hell are opened during the seventh lunar month to allow spirits to return to the living world in quest of family, food, and amusement. However, the gates of hell are large and hefty, so it takes two weeks for them to fully open. After all, these are portals to another world, thus their size must reflect their importance. The gates will then remain open for the whole day of the Hungry Ghost Festival, which falls on the 15th day of the lunar month. The gates will be fully open on this night, and all the spirits will have come out to play. The gates will then gradually close again, taking two weeks to entirely close. To avoid being left behind in the land of the living, the spirits will slowly go back to hell before the doors close.
What should we do during Ghost Month?
It actually depends on your beliefs, but as a general guideline, be more careful during this time period. This includes avoiding dark and dreary settings, staying out too late, and engaging in water-related or risky activities, among other things. Other superstitious advice includes not snapping photographs at night, not hanging laundry at night, and not talking to yourself. Some superstitions even recommend that you shouldn’t tap other people on the head or shoulders as it may put out the ‘soul fire’ and cause an adverse stroke of bad luck. Perhaps above all, simply ignore weird, unexplainable, or strange happenings during this month, lest you find yourself the star of a horror movie.
Don’t take it personally if your religious or superstitious friends refuse your invites to dinner or supper. The closer the date approaches to the Hungry Ghost Festival, the more probable they will stay at home once the sun goes down. Some families may even forbid leaving the house at night, even to put out the trash!
Is Ghost Month bad?
Although it is called hell and has a similar notion, the Chinese concept of hell isn’t all fire and brimstone. Most ‘ghosts’ are simply departed souls who did not ‘move on’ to be reborn, not demons, ghouls, or anything else. Instead, the spirits are frequently held back by some aspect of their connection to the living realm, such as worldly wants, remorse, or unfinished business. The majority of them simply want to see their family again, which is why the Hungry Ghost Festival includes ancestor reverence. Families will pray for and honor their departed elders and ancestors, thanking them for watching after and leading the family from the beyond.
What else can we do?
For the most part, daily life remains unchanged. People continue to go to work, meet friends, and do everything they used to do. It also pays to be a little more considerate, not knocking over food items on the road or being overly offensive. Who knows, after all? It may be wiser to err on the side of caution when dealing with the supernatural.